Southeastern REC Partners with NASA to Bring the Dreams of Space Exploration to Children’s Summer Camp Experience
Can you picture yourself as a child, fascinated with rocket ships and astronauts? Did you ever fall asleep dreaming of the great beyond under stars on your bedroom ceiling? Kids have a natural curiosity about space exploration and, if nurtured, it can lead to a world of educational opportunities. Southeastern’s summer camp for local children has a unique way to marry kids’ innate interest of space with educational STEM initiatives: Roomie’s Rec Camp program is an official NASA ASTRO CAMP community site.
To receive the designation, camp staff undergo an extensive certification workshop with NASA at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi. After the professional staff completes the program at Stennis, they train Southeastern student camp counselors to guide the 80-plus campers during the 10-week summer camp program. The training empowers the counselors, many of whom are education majors, to lead campers in interactive activities that teach the principles of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The REC Camp team first pursued the Astro Camp certification in 2017.
All activities are based off of NASA’s resources that seek to inspire future astronauts and engineers to learn about space. Some of the most popular activities are geared toward arts and crafts about rockets and shuttles.
STEM programs encourage experimentation, problem-solving, and teamwork, all skills that can help youth develop a passion for learning. The STEM movement is the future of the workforce, according to the Pew Research Center, with occupations in STEM seeing growth of 79 percent since 1990.
“The research clearly shows how important it is for our youth to learn skills associated with STEM subjects,” said Camp Director Seth Thomas. “The Astro Camp program allows our team to provide that type of learning opportunity to children right in our own community in a really fun and enjoyable way. The campers love participating with the counselors and being on a college campus.”
Southeastern student counselors enjoy the program as much as the campers while also experiencing “real-world ready” learning. Nursing major Mia Felton said, “My experience as a counselor helped me gain a greater understanding of communication techniques for children on the autism spectrum. The lessons I learned will be useful in my future career as a pediatric nurse.”
In addition to the STEM activities, Roomie’s REC Camp provides culinary activities, swimming, recreational games, and group field trips. After the campers participate in a summer of STEM activities through the Astro program, the camp visits the Stennis Space Center, bringing the dreams of space even closer.
Images by Emile Stretcher
Story by Grace Butzman and Ashley Richardson