After three weeks of preparation, Eureka! summer camp finally began this week! I was a bit anxious in the days leading up to Monday, but it was such a rewarding week. In the mornings, I facilitated the STEM lesson on ziplines with Caitlyn. Each day we had a different class (two seventh grade groups and two eighth grade groups). We began the lesson with a short interactive lecture on some physics topics related to ziplines (vectors, Newton’s Second Law of Motion, potential and kinetic energy, and trajectory). Some campers were familiar with these ideas, but most weren’t, so hopefully a few of the girls learned physics this week! The campers were surprisingly attentive and willing to participate, given that STEM began at 8:30 in the morning. The second part of the lesson was to design a way to carry a marble down a zipline and then drop it onto a target. The girls were way more creative and innovative than I could have imagined! On the first day, one group created a working design within ten minutes. Each group approached the problem in a different way, and thus created some really interesting ziplines. One group used a folded index card, and hit the target on every single run. Another group created an origami boat to carry the marble, and it was pretty successful. Perhaps the best part of the STEM lessons was when a group finally got their zipline to work, and they would excitedly call me over to show me. Even if a group was struggling, they would work on it for all three hours quite determinedly. Each group got so into it, and decorated their ziplines with a theme. I was so pleased to see their significant intelligence, creativity, and resolve!
In the afternoons, I facilitated an eighth grade class on leadership with Theresa, which began a bit roughly. On Monday and Tuesday, they were extremely rowdy and would constantly interrupt each other. I was a bit concerned that the entire week would be like that, and felt quite overwhelmed. However, we talked to them at the end of the Tuesday lesson and set up class guidelines for them. They knew that they were being disrespectful, and seemed to really listen when we told them how frustrated we were with constantly having to tell them to be quiet. In fact, they were amazing on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, we did a serious activity called “Before I Die,” where we asked them to list what they wanted to accomplish in their lifetime. Some were fun, like “see the world from space” or “become famous,” while others were a lot more introspective, like “be true to myself.” On Thursday, we asked them to write letters to a representative on an issue they cared about, which I didn’t think they would receive very well. However, many took the task quite earnestly. For example, one wrote about how mental health should be considered more seriously by our health system. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be teaching that class again outside of STEM once a week. When I told them that I would only be teaching their a class once a week for the remainder of ccamp, a few students hugged us, and it was really uplifting.
Originally, I thought the middle schoolers might tend to distance themselves from us, but they really wanted to get to know us and who we are. They loved to hear about Florida (where I’m from) and Duke (and one camper is a huge fan of Jayson Tatum!). Apparently, High School Musical is still really popular among middle schoolers, so we bonded over that and Harry Potter and Riverdale. The campers are such unique, intelligent, and inspiring young girls. I really hope some of them pursue an education and career in STEM!