College and Career Pathways Camp – Engineering

Summer’s here! I’m feeling less depressed about Carty (and everything in general). Gotta love sufficient rest, sleep, good food, family time, and the simple productivities of housecleaning, line coloring, blogging (I restarted my tumblr!), and skin care.

This summer, I’m teaching a 4-week middle school enrichment course about engineering. It’s part of a program to boost enrollment for the College and Career Pathways that the high school in my district is part of. Funded by a grant, our goal is to stir up interest in incoming 6th through 9th graders in the following pathways: biotechnology, information and communications technologies (ICT), art/digital arts, drama, and engineering.

Of course, I’m teaching the engineering strand, with a 1st year 7th grade teacher from the other middle school. I’m not at all qualified to teach any of the other strands, although I would like to learn more about the digital arts.

The premise for the engineering strand is a series of building challenges that the students complete in teams. Each day has a theme. For example, day 1 has towers of various materials and desired results, day 2 is motion & floatation, and so on.

For my classes, the winner(s) of the previous challenge gets extra supplies for the next one, culminating each day with a final prize of pencils or candy. There are no grades, no notes – minimal direct instruction in general. All the students are here because they want to learn something new in a hands-on way.

And I love it! It’s so much fun for the teacher, as well as for students. There’s a bit of a challenge keeping the kids who are here only because their parents made them engaged…but then, there always is and will be to the end of time, amen.

The first week was a pain to prep. A lot of our materials didn’t come in until the very last second, so we scrambled to make passable models and directions without having the real thing in our hands. I think we ordered much to0 much spaghetti and marshmallows, and not nearly enough cardstock and tape. The hovercrafts from RAFT are way too easy to make.

My counterpart also teaching this strand came up with the straw airplane and tin foil boat challenges. After two weeks, she didn’t like it so much (ah…the growing pains of a 1st year teacher…don’t I know it!). But I had turned both of those activities into a full experience of the engineering process. It’s probably my favorite day, not in the least because the students take the best prototype of each item they built that day (including a water balloon launcher!) and do a relay race with them.

A bonus discovery, although not really a surprise, is how much I like teaching half-days. There’s so much to be said for being able to go home by 12:30, enjoy a leisurely lunch, do some chores, run some errands, take an afternoon nap to beat the summer heat, and then wake up for a swim and some P.I.I.T. I’ll prep and eat dinner with a face mask on, then hop in the shower. In the evening, I’ll do some prepping for the upcoming school year, and work on some personal projects, like this blog.

I still miss Carty. When I went home for my mom’s birthday this weekend, I imagined his cage in the now-empty spot in the living room. I imagined him hopping around, standing up on his hind legs to see if I had any food for him, running around and around his favorite nooks and crannies behind the couch.

Ah. Now I’m getting sentimental. But visualizing that my bunny is happy across the rainbow bridge and will visit me in my imagination helps a lot. I suppose that’s a skill I’ll need when the humans I love pass on before me.

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