Camp Sparky, NASA team up to teach fifth-graders

Camp Sparky, a student organization that hosts biweekly educational outreach days, is partnering with NASA to host a learning camp Feb. 22 for fifth-graders from Phoenix's Balsz Elementary.

A class NASA hosted on implementing science in the classroom inspired her to ask the national organization to partner with the camp, Camp Sparky Chair Katelyn Sokol said in an email.

Camp Sparky only worked with student volunteers before the partnership, Sokol said. This marks the first time camp counselors work on campus rather than at nearby elementary schools.

Sokol, an elementary education junior, said she spearheaded the project, contacting NASA and Balsz Elementary and reserving rooms for experiments in the Memorial Union.

School children will rotate between experiment labs in the MU and tours of the NASA Mars facility on campus, Sokol said.

“Exposing kids to science with professional instructors is an incredible opportunity,” she said.

Training for camp counselors is on Feb. 15. Sokol said she is not certain what training will cover, but it’s likely that counselors will learn about identifying rocks, the atmosphere in space and the mission to Mars.

Sokol said she wants children to walk away with a memorable experience, new information and excitement for college.

There is no guarantee this will become an annual event, but Sokol said she hopes to do a good enough job that NASA will want to make it one.

Sheri Klug Boonstra, director of ASU's Mars Education Program, is Sokol’s contact at the NASA Mars facility.

Boonstra said in an email that the program trains teachers nationwide and develops curriculum on NASA’s behalf.

He said they will be teaching the Camp Sparky volunteers inquiry-based and hands-on activities.

The goal is for the schoolchildren to learn science in a fun, engaging way, Boonstra said.

“These students are our future world citizens,” he said.

The program is open to partnerships with other student organizations as well as a possible further partnership with Camp Sparky, Boonstra said.

Camp Sparky secretary and biology senior Patricia Estrada said in an email that there’s an opportunity to encourage school children to pursue higher education.

“Most of the kids we work with don’t think they can go to college,” she said.

Camp Sparky’s purpose is to show these children that a college education is attainable by opening the door to possibilities, Estrada said.

“If you can inspire just one (child), that makes all the hours you put into it worth it,” he said.


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