By Marc Cournoyer
UConn Extension’s Windham County 4-H program continues to provide young people with an opportunity to explore the world of STEM education through hands-on minicamp programs taking place at various locations throughout Windham County. In 2013 we are focusing on three distinct programs; Junk Drawer Robotics, STEM Gardens and video production with special effects. Each minicamp is 4-5 weeks in length and challenges participants to work in small teams to explore, brainstorm and solve science, technology, engineering and math obstacles to achieve desired goals.
In Junk Drawer Robotics, participants learn to think like scientists and design like engineers. Each week they are challenged to use provided materials to solve a particular problem. Whether it is creating a small moving robot using a paper cup, small battery operated motor and other household materials, building a trebuchet style catapult that will launch a marshmallow or exploring ways to reduce friction on a variety of surfaces, they are encouraged to find innovative solutions while working as part of a design team. Junk Drawer Robotics camps have or are taking place at the ASAP therapeutic mentoring summer program in Thompson, at the Windham Middle School, Griswold Summer Recreation, West Woodstock Public Library and the Windham County Extension Center.
In STEM Garden, participants learn about the science of gardening. They explore how a seed germinates to turn into a plant, container gardening and bottle biology. Using household materials, participants explore how things grow and interact with the larger world. The climax of the program is the group creating an on-site spiral garden illustrating various design ideas using ecologically friendly, native plants and growing practices. These gardens then serve as a living focal point that continues to educate long after the program is completed. This program is currently being held in partnership with the Killingly Public Library.
In video production, young people are exploring the world of film using special effects like green screens and stop motion animation. The program begins with the basics of story development where participants are given the opportunity to construct their own vision for their finished product, learning the steps of pre through post production. Participants are taught how to properly use digital video and still cameras, the working of a tripod and story construction. The program then progresses through filming and video creation using editing software. This program is currently taking place at the Windham County Extension Center.
Windham County 4-H is hoping to continue these science programs throughout the school year with the new Saturday Morning Science programs that will take place throughout the county each month. If you would like more information about any of these programs or are interested in being involved with future programs contact Windham County 4-H program coordinator Marc Cournoyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.