CLARKSVILLE — A weeklong summer program gave local elementary students the opportunity to engage in fun, hands-on activities focused on problem-solving.

Over the past week, Greater Clark County Schools presented a math and engineering camp for students from Bridgepoint and Parkwood Elementary schools. The camp ended Friday in a public showcase.

The free camp at Parkwood Elementary School was funded by a $15,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, and it was meant to help recover learning loss caused by the pandemic. About 45 kids a day have been participating in the program.

The first portion of the students’ days were focused on math skills, followed by interactive science lessons featuring Maker 13 and engineers from Jacobi, Toombs & Lanz.

The camp included hands-on activities designed to help students learn about topics ranging from city planning to water filtration. Students also were able to use Maker 13’s Maker Mobile, a traveling makerspace featuring 3D printers, lasers and more.

Raven Herron, third grade teacher at Parkwood, was one of the teachers at the camp. She also leads the school’s robotics program.

“The whole week has been so interactive, and the kids have been so engaged and excited,” she said.

Gary Rivoli, the former director of outreach for the J.B. Speed School of Engineering at University of Louisville, worked with the students throughout the week for a variety of interactive STEM activities. He works with students in elementary schools to get kids excited about engineering.

“We’ve been stymied for the last year [with the pandemic], so we’re just glad to be back doing this,” he said.

Students learned to make water filters using two-liter bottles, and they made paper rockets and small catapults.

Students were scheduled to launch their miniature rockets outdoors using an apparatus, but due to the weather, they instead launched them in the gymnasium aiming for a basketball hoop.

The program also included lessons from a professional city planner and civil engineers, and students teamed up to design a “future city” featuring schools, hospitals, recreation areas, highways, traffic signs and more.

For the last few days of the camp, students created Rube Goldberg contraptions using pulleys. These are a type of device that triggers a chain-reaction to perform a simple task.

Karen Wesely, director of elementary education, said the interactive component of the camp was particularly important for the student’s education.

“To be able to have the opportunity to get extra math help, but then for almost two hours a day getting exposed to professionals from those STEM fields and being given the opportunity with the materials and the time to critically think — it’s been such a gift for them,” Wesely said.

“We’re so grateful that Duke has a grant like this that we can apply for to be able to provide the opportunity,” she said. “It’s just been really cool to see.”

Parkwood student Jaxon Hess, who is going into fourth grade, was one of the students who participated in the camp.

“I really like this, because I get to meet new people, and I was having fun with the experiments like the Rube Goldberg, the water filters and a lot of other things,” Hess said.

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