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'STEAM'-Y Summer Fun

OU Camp Staff Create Free, Online Video Lessons to Keep Kids Engaged Over the Summer

Each summer when school lets out, children look forward to swimming, hanging out with friends and attending their favorite camps.

For many area children, especially those with parents who work on the University of Oklahoma campus, that means spending a week at Mini College, a day camp put on by OU Extended Campus’ Precollegiate Programs.

In a typical summer, Mini College campers would spend the morning doing STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) activities while finishing the day by swimming at the OU pool in the afternoon.

Likewise, middle and high school students typically head to the OU campus each summer to attend residential academies focusing on meteorology, geology and architecture.

This summer wasn’t typical.

When camps were canceled due to COVID-19, the Precollegiate Programs team still wanted to remain engaged with the students they see each year, even though they wouldn’t be seeing them in person.

So, they got creative.

Realizing kids might have screen fatigue after completing distance learning, the team began looking for tactile learning experiences that would be easy for parents to facilitate without having to search for supplies.

In June, they began recording videos of themselves doing STEAM projects like painting Monet’s Water Lilies, making fizzy lemonade and creating clouds in a jar – all projects kids could follow along with at home using supplies commonly found around the house.

They released two videos a week over the summer, posting them on their Facebook page and YouTube channel. The free videos will remain there, as well as on their website, pacs.ou.edu/precollegiate/, in an easy-to-navigate library that can be accessed at any time.

Cassie Eads, program director with Precollegiate Programs, said her team has enjoyed the creative challenge of finding appropriate activities, learning how to film and edit from home and keeping the content fun and engaging.

“Our programs are STEAM focused, so we knew that our audience would be excited to see similar activities,” said Eads. “While we would typically have longer, more in-depth projects happening at camp, we wanted to focus on small, teachable activities that could be done with supplies most families have at home. We wanted to strike that balance of engaging and fun but still keep learning throughout the summer.”

Precollegiate Programs ordinarily offers 10 one-week sessions of Mini College for rising first- through sixth-graders, as well as residential summer academies for middle school and high school students. Other Precollegiate Programs events held on campus annually include gifted and talented opportunities and a one-day Model United Nations Workshop.

“We’re hopeful that circumstances will allow us to offer in-person camps next year,” Eads said. “We will also continue to interact with our participants virtually to keep them learning. We hope students have as much fun watching the videos as we’ve had creating them.”

For more information about Mini College and other camps or activities offered by Precollegiate Programs, visit their website, pacs.ou.edu/precollegiate/

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