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Wednesday, April 24, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Registration underway for Mead School District’s popular summer STEM camps

The Mead School District is accepting registrations for its summer STEM camps July 2019. In this photo taken in January 2019, children experiment with an augmented reality sandbox created by Flexhibit during Mead High School’s annual STEM night. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)
The Mead School District is accepting registrations for its summer STEM camps July 2019. In this photo taken in January 2019, children experiment with an augmented reality sandbox created by Flexhibit during Mead High School’s annual STEM night. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)

The Mead School District is continuing its annual tradition of opening its doors to the community for summer STEM camps and registration for the popular camps is now open.

The weeklong camps focused on science, technology, engineering and math run the weeks of July 8, July 15 and July 25. The camps include a Mission to Mars, exploring space, forensics, studying the ecology of the Spokane River, building go-karts or doing coding and gaming. Most of the camps are repeated every week so kids have plenty of opportunities to sign up for more than one camp.

“We often have kids attending multiple camps,” STEM coordinator Dave Gamon said.

Sessions are from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday at Northwood Middle School. Free lunch and breakfast are served. The cost is $120 per week and scholarships are available. Parents can sign up their children at www.mead354.org.

The camps also feature “Lunch With Legends,” where local business people and entrepreneurs are invited to speak to the kids about their career path. Some speakers return year after year, and one regular is a former NASA scientist who is now a physics professor, said Doug Edmonson, executive director of career and technical education and STEM.

Edmonson and Gamon came up with the “crazy” idea for a STEM camp four years ago after the district did a Thought Exchange to get input from the community about what they wanted to see in the district. “The number one thing they said was more STEM opportunities in our district,” Edmonson said.

The first year of camps had 180 students in grades 4-6, and then filled up with 240 students the next.

Now the camps are open to students in grades 2-8 and there are 420 spots available this year. The camps usually fill up shortly after spring break and Gamon said he expects the camps to be full by the end of April.

The camps get kids excited for the upcoming school year, Edmonson said. He said he often hears comments from students asking why school can’t be that fun every day and that they had no idea that school could be so fun.

The camp is self-sustaining, with the fees paid by students paying for all the staff and supplies. “We’ve got well-trained and highly qualified staff who love kids,” Gamon said.

Edmonson said he believes if children are exposed to STEM concepts at a young age, they are more likely to be interested in them as careers when they get older. While the STEM program is for all students, Edmondson said he hopes it will encourage girls to go into engineering and computer science, both traditionally male-dominated fields.

Gamon said a recent study showed that schools have to get kids interested in STEM while they are young. “High school and college are almost too late,” he said. “We really want to give them a vision of what their future could look like.”

It’s too soon to tell if the summer camp is having the desired effect. The group of Mead students who attended the first summer STEM camp will be freshmen in high school this year, Edmonson said. He said he’s looking forward to seeing if they are more likely to consider STEM careers than those who didn’t attend the camps.

“In three years, we’ll have some pretty good data,” he said.

The camps are open to all students, not just those from the Mead School District, Edmonson said. The first year was limited to Mead students, but it was quickly opened up to the community at large.

“We allow the entire community to show up,” Edmonson said. “We have a lot of private schools around who want in. We want to improve all kids in our area.”

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