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BEA elementary students get plenty out of Discovery Space science camp

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From The Centre Daily Times

A nearly 2-foot structure made of index cards was built in a classroom at Wingate Elementary School on Wednesday.

The structure was assembled by three fourth-graders with one goal in mind: to make it the sturdiest in the room.

It proved to be well-built when Abby Hoover, 9, walked by the model and accidentally grazed it with her knee.

It swayed back and forth as classmates Felicity Cooper, 9, and Phoebe Fisher, 10, dropped to their knees and put their hands out around the cards in anticipation of it falling.

But the structure never tumbled.

The trio breathed sighs of relief for a quick moment before the real mission — to see if the structure could hold a stuffed cricket when placed on top.

Within about five seconds, the mission was complete, and the three girls who called each other “besties” exchanged high-fives and hugs.

The project was part of a larger engineering assignment on Wednesday afternoon in the first of a four-week STEM-focused science camp for Bald Eagle Area students, run by Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

Tracy Boone, district director of curriculum and instruction, reached out to Discovery Space last year to bring the program to the district.

“It’s a way for students to be more engaged in science activities that they may not have in the classroom,” Boone said. “We want kids to be more hands-on in science. They’re able to investigate, and engage in other science activities.”

The program includes kindergarten to fifth-grade students from Howard, Port Matilda, Mountaintop Area and Wingate elementary schools, and is held at Wingate Elementary School on Wednesdays after dismissal.

In the program’s first year at the district, there are about 210 student participants — the most ever in one program for Discovery Space, said Michele Crowl, Discovery Space director of education.

“It’s getting a great turnout — the best we’ve seen, and that’s such a good thing because we want to promote science,” Crowl said. “We’re able to bring in a lot of helpers to run the program with us.”

Alex Chen is a Penn State student who spends time with Discovery Space. On Wednesday, he said he taught first-graders the best way to make structures out of index cards, blocks, a magnet kit and more.

“In the simplest way possible, we just show them to first have a good foundation and then work your way up,” Chen said. “It’s a lot of trial and error at this age, but they’re getting the hang of it.”

For Kaden Fisher, 7, his favorite part is just being able to build things.

“My strategy is to make it as tall as possible, and taller than everyone else,” he said

Next week’s theme will focus on health, followed by astronomy and chemistry, Crowl said.

Boone said she hopes to bring the program back to BEA next year. In the meantime, a STEM camp will be held at the district through the Camp Invention in July.