LEESVILLE, La. (Ft. Polk Progress) - Pickering Elementary School turned into "The Great Pioneer Town" for Camp Discovery June 4-8. Approximately 60 Vernon Parish students in grades 1-8 completed different Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) educational activities centered around the story of a pioneer family.
The students rotated through math and science sessions, incorporating technology and engineering design, along with art, to complete five different challenges to help the pioneer settlers as they travel west to stake a land claim and build a new town.
"The purpose of this camp is to get the kids thinking a little higher," said Nichole Williams, Camp Discovery coordinator. "It's just to get the kids college and career ready because STEM is all part of getting them ready for the future."
Camp Discovery is supported by the Education Initiative, led by Fort Polk Progress, which aims to improve school performance, helping to ensure that students receive a great education in the Vernon Parish schools.
Fort Polk Progress also provided additional funding needed for supplies and teachers for the camp.
The challenges included creating a filtration system to provide the thirsty pioneers with water; building a shelter capable of withstanding a wind storm; building a watch tower that can withstand the weight of an apple; creating a water warming device for the family to bathe; and making a rock mover to clear land for agriculture.
"We just wanted them to have a good time," Williams said. "If they got those critical thinking skills and [learned] how to think outside the box, then we also did our job on that, too."
Students enjoyed Camp Discovery, and found it beneficial.
Kelsey Fitzpatrick, 10, liked tapping into her creative side and gaining more engineering skills, while making new friends during camp.
"I enjoyed doing some social activities with everyone," Fitzpatrick said. "I liked teaming up with people, working together and creating stuff."
Julian Torres, 8, enjoys STEM and looked forward to each activity.
"My dad is going to be a carpenter and I want to be a carpenter, so that's why I wanted to do a lot of engineering and [get in] a lot of practice," Torres said.
Bryson Allen, 9, said his favorite part of camp was meeting new people and learning new things.
"[I enjoyed] making the clean water, [and] learning more about pioneers because I didn't know much about them," said Allen.
Williams hopes Camp Discovery leaves a lasting impression on the children with its lessons and experiences.
"A lot of these kids sit at home and do nothing in the summer, and they need some kind of enrichment," said Williams. "I hope they take away some good memories and skills they can use in real life. I hope they make some new friends, and that this will really help them for next school year."