TUPELO • For more than two decades, Tupelo Public School District has combated the “summer slide” of kids forgetting things they learned during the school year by hosting summer camps at Lawndale Elementary in June. Over time, these camps have increasingly applied classroom concepts into summer play.

Camp coordinator Teresa Gregory said teachers submit proposals for camp ideas during the school year and some of those ideas get picked up for the Summer Opportunity Camps program.

The camps are aimed at combating the loss of school year learning gains by keeping essential academic concepts in the minds of students by engaging them through fun activities.

A 2015 study by Northwest Evaluation Association, a nonprofit providing assessment solutions that measure learning growth and proficiency, found third- through fifth-graders lost on average of about 20 percent of school-year gains in reading and 27 percent of school-year gains in math during summer.

A significant portion of Tupelo summer camps this year apply STEAM concepts, or science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. Camps like ‘Science in Motion’ introduce students to challenging and fun activities that stimulate and teach students about physics.

Tupelo Middle School physics teacher Jonathan Begnaud and Lawndale Elementary coach Bo Boatner have worked together over the last several years to create fun and interesting physical activities that introduce students to physics concepts like energy, temperature, electricity and the light spectrum.

“I wanted to put more science into my P.E. classes; science is in everything, so when it came time to do a camp, I wanted to bring on someone who could explain that science has to do with everything,” Boatner said.

This week, third through sixth grade students learned archery from a Tupelo Middle School archery coach and also participated in an experiment using a bowling ball pendulum to learn about energy.

“We talked about how we were going to have potential energy in the bows and kinetic energy in the arrows,” Begnaud said. “We had a bowling ball hung from the ceiling and we looked at potential and kinetic energy in that as well.”

Students also played a live round of the phone app game Angry Birds, made foam rockets, learned about energy transition by making ice cream using salt, and learned about temperature transitions using liquid nitrogen.

“We discussed these concepts at an introductory level, so we’re learning concepts about energy that is stored energy versus energy that is kinetic energy, but there are lots of other concepts as well, but that is one that shows up in a lot of places,” Begnaud said.

This is the second year Ensley Cock, 10, has participated in the Science in Motion camp, and she hopes to attend next year, although she will likely have to attend as a volunteer. She participated in the pendulum experiment this week and said it took guts.

“You’re able to learn during the summer and have a lot of fun while doing it,” she said. “It was scary, but it was so much fun.”

Gregory said there are usually five or six camps happening each week at Lawndale to keep students engaged throughout the month of June.

So far, there have been camps for coding, pop art, science and the Breakout Box Camp, which incorporates locks, hidden contraptions, times, keys, diversion hardware and rewards to break into boxes like an escape room game.

Coming up are camps for coding, robotics, a story-building camp utilizing the Lego StoryVisualizer app on iPad to construct and sequence stories, an art and gardening camp, a project design and 3-D printing camp, and more. And new this year is a camp for students who have completed a pre-Kindergarten class that will provide activities involving fairy tales.

“If kids are interested in something it makes it so much better, they are learning about things like math or science and they don’t even realize they are doing it because they are having so much fun,” Gregory said.

Students can still apply to attend open camps in June. The cost is $90 for a weeklong camp, and students can apply on the school district’s website.

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