Space Camp: A summer frontier

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Claire Ewert and Fiona Jackson observe their sun dials at Weber State University’s Space Camp on Thursday, June 18. (Emily Crooks / The Signpost)

The lazy days of summer vacation are a welcome change from the school year, but the break creates a learning gap in a young mind.

A series of camps is being run by the Weber State’s Department for Lifelong Learning to fill the gap. The first camp of the summer will place an emphasis on space.

Lauren Anderson, director of professional and lifelong learning at the Center for Continuing Education, said the camps dealing with science and technology are directed at keeping kids motivated during their scholastic down time, as well as introducing the kids to the Weber campus.

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Space Camp instructor Mike Warby shows her students how to calculate the movement of the sun at Weber State University on Thursday, June 18. (Emily Crooks / The Signpost)

“The idea is to expose kids to Weber State University,” Anderson said, “and introduce them to some of the great subjects that we teach.”

Anderson reached out to the science and applied technology departments for ideas, and they worked with area educators to come up with various camps.

The subjects introduced in classes include space, roller coasters, computer storytelling and the brain.

“Space Camp has been one of our most popular camps,” Anderson said.

Space Camp covers a wide variety of scientific disciplines. Physics, astronomy, cosmology and a general smattering of basic scientific principles all fall under the space tent.

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Space Camp instructor Mike Warby teaches her students about the shapes of galaxies at Weber State University on Wednesday, June 17. (Emily Crooks / The Signpost)

Mike Warby, the science educational outreach specialist for the physics department at WSU, runs the class. She has goals for each class and for the kids: make the classes informative and fun.

“We want the kids to get excited enough about science that they’re willing to put in the effort to learn. Science isn’t easy. It requires math that isn’t easy,” she said.

To that end, Warby keeps the subjects broad and incorporates the hard science in strategic places.

Class activities include sorting galaxy types and observing the sun, which shows the scientific method at work. Discussions of Newton’s laws and visits to the WSU planetarium teach fundamental scientific principles.

The kids learn about the history and use of rockets, play a game of tag using a ball on a string, which provides some application for the information and they get a chance to leave the classroom and work off some energy.

“I wanted to come up with as many hands-on activities as I could to keep that fun aspect as well,” Warby said. “I wanted them to constantly be having fun with science.”

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Children at Space Camp play a variety of fun games that teach them about math and science at Weber State University on Wednesday, June 17. (Emily Crooks / The Signpost)

The success of the camp is ultimately measured by the enthusiasm of the attendees, especially if the goal is to get them excited for a lifetime of learning  and scientific discipline.

Students confirmed the classes are reaching those goals. Several said they were glad they had come and would come again.

“It was like school, only fun,” said Eli Averett, who wants to be a veterinarian.

Carter Parsons is interested in being an athlete, but when asked if he would like to attend again in the future, he said, “Yeah, definitely. I really find learning about new things cool.”

As to what they took from the class, the answers were varied.

“I learned that the Milky Way galaxy is one day, in about 8 billion years, going to collide with the Andromeda galaxy, and the two super-massive black holes will collide and … everything will be destroyed, ” Fiona Jackson said. She wants to be a scientist and probably study space.

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Brock Mutchie and Carter Guzzetti observe the sun through protective glasses at Weber State University’s Space Camp on Thursday, June 18. (Emily Crooks / The Signpost)

“One of the things I thought was most interesting is that a hypothesis, depending on the job, can be in a different area. Like for a person who hunts fossils, they can actually find the fossil first, then create the hypothesis,”  said Clair Ewert, who hopes to one day become an astronomer or geologist. “I definitely like space,” she said.

Makayla Battisti, who hopes to become a chemist, noted the history of space technology. “Rockets were first used for missiles and weapons, and they were used with black powder, kind of like fireworks, when the Chinese first invented them,” she said.

“Thank you, Weber State University, for Space Camp,” she added.


Graphic by Michelle Nelson
Graphic by Michelle Nelson