“Why don’t we go to the moon anymore?” This question was asked by Gavin, a green-haired incoming 6th grader entering LaVenture Middle School. Gavin along with twenty other middle school students recently participated in Launch Camp, a NASA-inspired space program run by Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County. The youth came from all across Skagit County, from La Conner to Concrete, all united by a desire to better understand space.
Although the youth were disappointed that NASA no longer sends astronauts to the moon, they were excited by the possibility of establishing a Mars colony at some point in their future. During the four day camp, they learned how to program robotics, designed 3D printing models, learned about many of the principles of flights, and culminated the camp by launching water rockets. The activities enabled them to imagine becoming NASA scientists or even Mars colonists. At the end of the camp, all of the youth expressed a desire to continue learning about science and technology.
Many of the robotics and rocketry activities at Launch Camp came from the Northwest Earth and Space Science Pipeline (NESSP), a NASA-funded educational outreach program. “The kids loved the idea that NASA was investing in them,” said Nathan Allen, co-leader of Launch Camp, “We worked to make it clear that NASA invests in the future of science – that used to be moon landings but now it’s our youth.” During the school year, Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County will continue to use the NESSP’s curriculum resources to empower youth. In addition to robotics and rocketry, youth will learn about environmental science and contribute data to NASA scientists through the NASA Globe program.
Throughout the week, the youth at Launch Camp asked many excellent questions about space and the universe. But, on the last day, most of the participants asked the questions “can Launch Camp last longer?” and “will there be Launch Camp next year?” Youth in the Clubs will be empowered by Launch Camp and the lessons they learned for the rest of the school year.
Club members were able to visit the Seattle Art Museum this summer. Stefano Perruccio, the Clubs’ Art Specialist was one of the chaperones for the trip. Stefano spends time at each of the Clubs coming up with thoughtful art projects for the youth to participate in and he was especially excited about this opportunity. “The museum trip offered an exposure to a variety of art within many cultures all over the world, from modern, to traditional, to indigenous all in one space. I enjoyed witnessing their engagement and energy,” he said.
Tammy Findlay, Director of Marketing, was also able to make the trip and snap some photos. Of her experience on the trip, she said, “One of the first exhibits we viewed was a very large sculpture of an oversized black mouse sitting on top of a man lying in bed all in white. I asked one of the members if they had any thoughts on what it meant. They were confused by the question, but then had a very literal interpretation. ‘A big rat sat on him and he’s probably dead.’ I said I didn’t know what the sculpture meant, but that maybe the mouse represented something like anxiety. They said, ‘that’s weird!’ I continued asking members about details of various exhibits throughout, and soon members were coming up to me and sharing their interpretation of the art. I really enjoyed their thought process, and how they became more engaged when they realized that they were allowed to have an opinion about what they were viewing.”
In addition to admiring the works of art, kids were challenged to remain quiet, not touch the work and adhere to boundaries set by the museum. A difficult feat, to say the least, but they all did a masterful job overall. Stefano remarked that he wished museums were more accessible to a younger audience, more interactive, and not so “buttoned-up”. This might have been one of the reasons that they loved the Three Empathics virtual display, part of the African art collection. The dark room featured neon-projecting, changing images on the wall and on the floor while playing calming music. Some of the youth mimicked the poses of the 3 seemingly meditating or yogic figures and let the images display on them as they lay on the floor.
Stefano followed up the experience with an art project. He explained, “After the trip, members created their own masks with paper mâché, exploring all the different styles of masks that we saw at the museum, Pacific Islander, Latin American, African American, and Native American. This brought the experience full-circle and provided hands-on learning that was more relatable for them, instead of the strictly academic viewpoint of the museum. This gave them the opportunity to be directly engaged, creating, instead of only viewing.”
Exposure to different types of artwork has shown to have an impact on kids learning and overall academic health. Visiting the museum, and providing Club kids with an “adult” perspective on art is just one more tool that helps the Clubs achieve one of their priority outcomes of Academic Success.
Many people see “math” as a four letter word. In middle school, math begins to change for students and many students find the transition challenging. Instead of using operations that most calculators can do, students begin learning about more abstract concepts like negative numbers, functions, and proportional relationships. But, for one 6th grade student at La Venture Middle School, math is a challenge to be surmounted.
Wilfrido wants to become “un profesor de mathematics” — a mathematics professor. Wilfrido came to LaVenture part way through the year and has been focused on one goal, to complete as much of the online math program Khan Academy as possible. Amazingly, Wilfredo has finished working through all of the math concepts for 6th grade, most of the concepts for 7th grade, and has begun working on 8th-grade mathematics without an advantage given to most of his peers. Wilfrido only speaks Spanish.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County run an after-school program at LaVenture Middle School called Flying Falcons. During Flying Falcons, all members complete at least an hour of homework with staff assistance, a program known as Power Hour. Wilfrido completes as much math as possible during this time and will even choose to do math when more traditionally enjoyable activities are available.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Nathan Allen, Director of STEM Initiatives for Boys & Girls Clubs. “As a former middle school math teacher, I’ve seen students make huge gains during a year. But, I’ve never seen someone work persistently through two grade levels of math, let alone an English Language Learner. He’s extraordinary.” Because of Nathan’s history as a math teacher, Wilfrido will often come to him with math questions, often needing to teach Nathan Spanish in the process.
Some students will volunteer to help Wilfrido or translate for him, only to find that he understands the math more completely than them. Like his peers, he enjoys playing games on the computer and joking around with his friends. But, given the choice, he logs onto Khan Academy with a mischievous smile and searches for a new math concept to master.
As kids start to get into middle school and high school, they are asked more and more frequently to start making important decisions about what they want to do with their lives. Career Launch is a program that gives members new tools to help make these important decisions.
Every week, Teen Centers in our Clubs invite guest speakers to share their experiences with the members. Our teens have heard from a variety of people in different professions, and different stages of their professional careers.
This week the Sedro Woolley teens welcomed Holly Shannon as guest speaker. Holly is a lawyer and has been a member of the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County for the past 3 years. She currently serves as Board President.
As part of our Career Launch programming, Holly spoke about receiving a Bachelor’s degree in History from Western Washington University and her Juris Doctorate from Michigan State University. The members heard about how every day is different and how she works with around 300 clients! Fortunately, not all 300 of them need something every day.
Originally, Holly wanted to be a teacher but after looking into the law field and its history, she decided she’d rather be a lawyer. This sentiment, of discovering a new interest and pursuing it as a career, has been a common one with guest speakers. It’s a valuable lesson for our members to hear as we encourage them to make plans for their Great Futures!
Thanks for stopping by Holly! The teens really enjoyed having you visit and hearing about an exciting profession!