The White Mountain Nature Center (WMNC) wanted to inspire more students to focus on both the environment and STEM outside of the typical school day. WMNC, in collaboration with the City of Pinetop and Navapache Innovation Council (NAIC) members from the education community, worked to incorporate these learning opportunities into their organization by offering the Discovery Learning Camp, a Summer STEM-centric Camp designed to provide access to STEM and a better understanding of wildlife and the environment.
How did they do it?
The planning for the Discovery Learning Camp began in January 2017, and was piloted in June 2017. The camp consisted of instruction and learning materials for different STEM kits and themes by the Nature Center Discovery Learning Camp. The Camp was for children entering 2nd-6th grade and offered hands on STEM activities, games, outdoor exploration and hikes around the Nature Center. Discovery Learning Camp offered six weeks of programming, which students could attend in its entirety or just during selected weeks. The Camp had a different curriculum for each week to offer students diverse opportunities to experience science and nature. Themes included Forest Frenzy, where children would explore the forest environment and wildlife and Gardening Galore where students would learn about plant cycles, how to grow different types of plants, and the power of pollinators. The full Camp itinerary can be found here.
With registration now open for summer 2019 and over 75 attendees at an average age of 6-12 years old across the Camp’s first 6-week pilot, WMNC’s partnership with RAIN continues to be a success. Beyond hosting the STEM camp, an additional outcome was the creation of a STEM shed to house STEM activity tools. The willingness of WMNC’s Board to embrace RAIN and the work of the NAIC has led to them opening up their facilities to other regional STEM programs and meetings including Audubon, Watershed, Game and Fish, and the Nature Conservancy. In 2018, STEM Shed materials began being shared with Wildlife Expos, environmental restoration programs, alpine flora and fauna, and astronomy programs. It is estimated that the NAIC’s impact on STEM through the WMNC has reached over 3000 attendees in Pinetop (population 4,300)
The Arizona Rural Activation and Innovation Network (RAIN) is funded by the National Science Foundation to oversee grant funding for informal STEM education projects in four rural Arizona communities: Cochise County, Graham and Greenlee County, the Verde Valley, and the Navapache/White Mountains region. RAIN acts as a resource for best practices in informal STEM program development and works to highlight effective STEM programs, employers and organizations across the state of Arizona. Interested in applying for a grant? Visit our website today and learn more about the opportunities in your community.