Junior/Senior Scholars learn STEM concepts from North Central College students

Jul 17, 2015

Kailey Robbins, a North Central College senior, spent part of her summer working with youngsters enrolled in the College’s Junior/Senior Scholars program. As an elementary education major pursuing a math endorsement and a minor in Spanish, Robbins and others gained valuable classroom teaching STEM concepts to youngsters.

“I learned everything from classroom management to lesson planning,” says Robbins, a Hartland, Wis., resident who also plays lacrosse. This was her second summer participating in the Junior/Senior Scholars program, which is in its 28th year.

Each year the program brings about 200 children from high-need schools in Chicago and Aurora to North Central’s 65-acre campus in Naperville. Participants range in age from first grade to high school, and many campers experience their first exposure to the notion of pursuing a college education. They are taught by North Central College education majors learning skills needed to become excellent teachers. To prepare for the camp, the North Central students spent a week with representatives of the ASM Materials Education Foundation.

“This year 14 North Central College students served as Junior/Senior Scholar interns,” says Jan Fitzsimmons, executive director of the Urban Education Laboratory at North Central College. “They were coached by five North Central alumni and the program was directed by two North Central alumni.”

This summer the camp’s theme was “Materials Matter,” which emphasizes the importance of materials engineering and the engineering design process. Broader lessons cover science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) education, with professionals sharing their expertise in various areas. Guest speakers included the president of QuesTek Innovations and representatives of the Museum of Science and Industry, Nicor and The McCrone Group.

One session was led by Paul Brandt, North Central College professor of chemistry, who explained the periodic table to groups of youngsters and demonstrated a few chemical reactions.

“Let’s see what happens when we put a small amount of potassium into a water solution,” Brandt told campers. He then initiated a reaction that ignited a plume of hydrogen gas, which led to a short discussion about fire safety.

“Baking soda works really well on grease fires,” he instructed. “Water’s not good. When you throw water on a grease fire it spreads it around.”

For the North Central College education majors who instructed campers, the experience provided an opportunity to highlight the new Next Generation Science Standards, which are aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

“Our education students engage campers in problem-solving through reading, writing, mathematical computations, geography, current events and scientific investigations,” Fitzsimmons says.

In addition to learning academic subjects, Junior/Senior Scholars campers participate in recreational games and fitness, swimming, music, drama and art courses. Middle school-aged campers participate in an overnight campout while high school students complete internships at Morton Arboretum, Feed My Starving Children, Little Friends and Anderson’s Bookshops.

The Junior/Senior Scholars program is partially funded through support from Target, Travelers Insurance, Chartwells, the Dart Foundation, and individuals including alumni, donors and friends.