The idea for Camp STEMtastic formed after multiple initiatives promoting STEM education in the USA became a prominent national focus. Increasing exposure to and interest in STEM fields has become an education policy priority in both the public and private sector. In 2015, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report rated 144 countries on the quality of their math and science education programs; the United States ranked 44. This surprisingly disappointing ranking, coupled with the United States Department of Labor’s projection that by 2018 STEM related occupations will grow by 17% as compared to the expected 9% growth of non-STEM related jobs, has caused many educational institutions to focus on STEM related fields.
The hope is to revitalize the innovator culture on which the United States’ global success was founded. The Division of Education at Thomas University foresaw the need for educators to be well versed in STEM fields and wanted to provide an opportunity for teachers-in-training to have real-world experience working with students on STEM related lessons.
It was apparent to the Division of Education that increased access to STEM topics would need to be given to traditionally underrepresented populations in STEM fields, e.g. low-income, minorities, and women, for a greater impact to be made. Therefore, Camp STEMtastic was created to focus on exposing low-income populations to STEM related fields in hopes of increasing their interest in pursuing careers in those fields. The camp would serve three distinct purposes; promoting STEM fields to low-income students, offering teachers-in-training real-world experience working with students on STEM lessons, and acting as a long-term research project to collect data on the outcomes of early and frequent exposure to STEM fields of study.
The inaugural session of the week-long camp took place during the summer of 2014, and was an outstanding success. Thirty campers, comprised of rising sixth-graders with proven financial need, were introduced to the science of flight and participated in multiple projects that explored all aspects of flight. Those same campers will be returning this year to focus on water systems. The camp’s goal is to see this group, and six other cohorts, complete seven years of Camp STEMtastic.
The 2017 summer Camp STEMTASTIC is offered to a limited number of rising 6th and 8th graders. Campers are invited after a recommendation is received by the Division of Education from the teachers in the city and county schools of Thomasville and Thomas County. The recommendation is based on the student’s positive attitude and aptitude in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.
For more information about Camp STEMtastic, click here.