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Evanston science campers show off their stuff

Parents concerned that the Evanston/Skokie District 65 schools over-emphasize “teaching to the test” would be comforted to see the enthusiasm and creativity demonstrated by students participating in two summer science camps offered by the district.

Parents concerned that the Evanston/Skokie District 65 schools over-emphasize “teaching to the test” would be comforted to see the enthusiasm and creativity demonstrated by students participating in two summer science camps offered by the district.

Anna Stoll watches as Bandev Sader’s robot rolls a ball.

Midway through the two-session program, the middle-school kids and their teachers held an open house today at district headquarters to demonstrate what the students have learned and created the past three weeks.

One program is called SSTS, which stands for Students using Science and Technology to find Solutions. Partnering with the City of Evanston Ecology Center, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and Vernier Software & Technology, the program involves canoe trips on the nearby North Shore Channel to explore how local waterways and their surrounding biodiversity are affected by human activity.

Ian Saloman uses the computer to program his Lego robot.

Employing scientific methodology, the kids, in teams of three or four, created hypotheses which they tested through various experiments to find answers to their questions about such topics as water pollution, water quality, and aquatic life. About 20 6th and 7th grade students were selected to participate in each of two three-week sessions beginning June 21 and July 12.

An interdisciplinary group of teachers drawn from science, media technology, social studies, and language arts guide the students through their explorations.

The second program involved creating robots, utilizing Lego’s Mindstorm NXT programmable technology. Working in two-person teams, students built their projects from Lego pieces and then taught them to do things by attaching sensors to an NXT box that they programmed by computers to perform various tasks. Some 28 students were in the first session, and 22 students are signed up for the second session.

SSTS students pause during the open house to watch a video about the summer program.

Both programs are free to students within the district. Where there is room for additional participants, students from outside the district are accepted but are charged a fee to cover expenses.

Hal Jenkins, science curriculum facilitator at District 65, is the project leader. He said the district is pleased with the success of the programs and that plans are already being made to offer the camps next year.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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