Summer Science Camp offer hands-on learning opportunity in summer months

Lexi Prudent, 6, uses scissors to cut slime she just made out of glue and starch during the Mighty Magnet class of the Science Summer Camp on Friday at Eastern Idaho Technical College. This year, about 450 students are expected to enroll in the camp, open to students who’ve completed kindergarten through sixth grade. Pat Sutphin /

Rachel Lee, 12, uses an airplane launcher to shoot her paper airplane through a hoop during the Popping with Power class of the Science Summer Camp on Friday at Eastern Idaho Technical College. Pat Sutphin /

Science isn’t always paralleled with “cool,” but for dozens of elementary students who constructed catapults, built LEGO robots and made fossils out of plaster of Paris last week, the words “cool,” and “awesome” were used enthusiastically and often.

“It’s really a lot of fun,” said 12-year-old Sungmin Cho, who recently finished sixth grade at Linden Park Elementary. “Every time we come here, there’s something to do. I get to figure (a problem) out, and I get to do it with my friends.”

The students were part of the annual Summer Science Camp at Eastern Idaho Technical College — eight, weeklong camps offered twice in June and July. The next camp sessions start July 14.

The three hour, twice-per-day camps are taught each year mostly by elementary teachers from Idaho Falls School District 91 and Bonneville Joint School District 93 and cater to any student who’s completed kindergarten through sixth grade.

Week sessions are divided into three age groups each with three fun “sciency” themed options including “Lego Robotic Mania,” “Going Batty” and “Dino-rawrs.”

Each theme aims, however, to teach students concepts of an overarching branch of science such as chemistry, earth science and biology, said camp director Jacque Williams.

“Everyone can participate and engage — that’s the beauty of it,” she said. “It’s a really good opportunity for kids to be engaged in the summer. It gets them off their iPods, off the television sets and out of the house doing something educational and fun at the same time.”

The camp is funded with donations from the EITC Foundation, Cargill, Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership, Idaho National Laboratory and the Leland D. Beckman Foundation.

Enrollment this year is projected between 450 to 500 students — around the same as in past years, Williams said.

Eight-year-old Larissa Noe, from Temple View Elementary, took part in “Involving and Dissolving Festival” camp in which, throughout the week she created soda, crystal artwork and homemade gel-o. Along the way, she learned about bubbles, gases, solids and liquids, she said.

“I really like hanging out with my friends and doing science with them,” she said. “We get to do more experiments here (than in regular science class).”

And that’s the idea, said Toni Mann, special education teacher at Ethel Boyes Elementary School, who led the paleontology-themed camp. Camps are interspersed with hands-on activities designed to make learning fun, she said.

“We don’t do a lot of ‘you have to read this; you have to write this.’ It’s mostly a lot of interactive stuff that we do and really a lot of projects,” she said. “Of course we have a few rules and we want them to learn, but for the most part we want it to be fun and engaging for them.”

Reporter Kirsten Johnson can be reached at 542-6757.