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Our sixth week within the Duke Engage Orange County program comprised the second full week of Eureka! summer camp. In many ways, I feel more comfortable with the rhythms and patterns of camp with a week of hands-on experience behind me, but I’ve also been pleased to discover that the varying topics and teaching methods we utilize in our many sessions have ensured that the days continue to feel fresh and have prevented too much repetition or tedium. While last week’s sessions consisted of primarily direct STEM and life skills instruction, the students have received more space in the past few days to apply what they’ve learned to a project; each of them are working either alone or in a small group to build a website advocating for a social justice cause of their choice. In fact, Vinnessa and Scout’s lesson on HTML and Laila and Mary’s lesson on CSS provided templates and examples of how this could be executed, and I found myself learning a lot and experimenting with the code as well.

However, one thing I’ve found myself struggling with during this week is how hard to push the students. When the students are given time to work on their projects, each of the interns is present in one of the breakout rooms to answer technical questions and give active feedback, and the team of girls with whom I’ve been working most closely this week decided that attempting to build a webpage seemed too intimidating. They instead opted to employ a combination of Canva graphics and Google Slides for their project–the final product looks great, but I was uncertain about how insistent I should be that they use the HTML and CSS they had been learning. It’s important to me that STEM remains accessible for the students–if I push them too hard and they become overwhelmed and discouraged, it decreases the likelihood that they’ll pursue STEM in the future, but if I don’t challenge them, they won’t build the hard skills, perseverance, or confidence that are so valuable. I’m hopeful that this is a balance I’ll eventually become more comfortable in striking, and I’m planning to talk to my coordinator about making those discernments soon.