Full ‘STEAM’ ahead for 26th Kids in College summer program at New Kensington

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. -- Young students can “steam” into the summer camp season at Penn State New Kensington aboard a “black rocket” as Kids in College opens its 26th year of operation at the campus.

Since 2009, the program has integrated the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics into the traditional summer classes. This year, Kids in College adds a creative arts component, turning STEM into STEAM.

A nationwide effort, STEAM prepares middle-school students for a competitive world through a strategy of enhanced education and career development opportunities.

“Creativity is a vital part of education and innovation, and classes in the arts will allow students to express their creativity in a fun environment,” said Debbie Novak, coordinator of STEM programs at the campus. “The arts teach students to interpret information, which is a necessary component in problem solving.”

The campus is working with two educational companies who specialize on melding creative arts and the STEM fields: Black Rocket and Snapology. Both companies stress hands-on learning and teamwork, a crucial social skill for elementary students.

Black Rocket’s niche is digital art programming that focuses on filmmaking and video-game design. The five Black Rocket technology camps -- App Attack! Make Your First Game App; App Adventures; The Next Level; Make Your First Video Game; Video Game Animation; and Minecraft Designers -- emphasize self-empowerment, cognitive reasoning and divergent thinking through hands-on learning. The classes are offered in June and July and are specific for grades 2-4 and 5-8.

Snapology offers a learning concept that combines play with education using LEGO bricks and other materials that snap together. The four Snapology camps -- LEGO Ninjas; LEGO Minecraft; Amusement Park Adventure; and LEGO Combat Robots -- are designed to inspire creativity and promote teamwork. The classes are scheduled for two weeks in July and are appropriate for children in grades 1-4 and 5-8.

“We are partnering with Black Rocket and Snapology to provide new opportunities for area students to experience state-of-the-art technology programs,” said Novak, who holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Pittsburgh. “Black Rocket will provide classes on creating apps, video game animation and Minecraft designs. Snapology will provide their most popular LEGO classes where students can learn about design concepts while building their favorite characters and games. These classes are a good fit with the STEAM concept.”

Overall, the Kids in College line-up features 30 camps, as well as an SAT prep course for high school students that runs from 9 a.m. to noon, July 14-18. In addition to the STEAM classes, there are seven new classes, including computer programming, biodiversity and architectural design. Due to renovations to the campus Athletics Center, there will be no sports instruction.

The camps, which run from June to July, are arranged by grade levels. There will be seven classes for first graders, 16 classes for second and third graders, and 13 classes for fourth graders. Twenty courses are available for students in grades 5-8.

“We continue to have gifted instructors who provide creative courses that enrich our students in a variety of topics,” Novak said. “The number of courses offered each year has continued to grow in size and material content. Due to the program’s success, we presently have second-generation students attending the camps.”

The granddaddy of all the camps is Theatre Camp, a perennial favorite of the young participants. It begins a two-week run with auditions on June 16. Director Joe Truesdell will bring an adaptation of “Shrek the Musical” to the Forum Theatre stage. The camp is split into two sections: 8:30 a.m. to noon (grades 2-5) and noon to 3:30 p.m. (grades 6-12). A grand performance is scheduled for the last day of classes, July 1 for the younger group and July 2 for the older group. The cost is $195 and includes a DVD of the final production.

For a quarter of a century, the Office of Continuing Education has offered a variety of academic and sports activities for students in grades one through 12. Each year, more than 400 youths participate in the hands-on camps.

“The camp was established to provide students with a fun learning experience, while exposing them to a college campus atmosphere,” Novak said. “Over the past 25 years, we have had more than 7,500 students participate in the program.”

For more information on Kids in College, call 724-334-6010.

For a brochure on the youth programs, information on scholarships or to register, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/CE/41091.htm

The Kids in College program is funded, in part, by a grant from the Grable Foundation, whose mission is to enrich the academic, artistic and social experiences for at-risk youth living in the Alle-Kiski Valley. The grant is earmarked for scholarships and materials. A limited number of scholarships are available. Students are encouraged to register early. Based in Pittsburgh, the Grable Foundation supports community and youth organizations in southwestern Pennsylvania. The foundation reflects the philanthropic philosophy of Erret and Minnie Grable, who were strong believers in the importance of education in helping children build productive, self-sustaining and meaningful lives.

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Last Updated May 14, 2014