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Problem Solving Through a Global Lens at Summer STEAM Camp

By John Childs, Program Director, Mental Fitness 21st Century Learning

“OMG! We could help give clean water to all our brothers and sisters in Africa!” This was the ‘eureka moment’ for one of our 8-10-year-old students while seeing the results of an experiment in Level Up Village’s Global Scientist course. The students collaborated on the design of a water collection apparatus made from leaves, some plastic, and a few heavy rocks with a carefully dug hole – it all came together very nicely! When students can connect learning with the solution of problems, the education becomes relevant and meaningful, and most of all, fun.

This was a day in the life of the 2017 Mental Fitness 21st Century Learning Inc. Summer STEAM camp. Our organization provides educational enrichment through the use of science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. We also incorporate elements of 21st Century learning skills such as collaboration, creativity/innovation and critical thinking in everything we do.  This makes Level Up Village a natural partner for the great work with kids at Mental Fitness. Adding the component of connecting with a class of children from the other side of the world gives students a sense of global citizenship that can only happen in the kind of ecosystem provided by Level Up Village. When parents learned that they will not only receive the great STEAM enrichment provided by Mental Fitness but also that we will give it an extreme boost by partnering with LUV, they can’t wait to register their child for a summer of fun and learning.

This summer we were additionally fortunate because one of our students’ mothers is a representative for the great humanitarian organization C.A.R.E. When she heard what we were doing with Level Up Village, she immediately put the steps into play to connect the dots on a letter writing campaign that would tie directly into the students newfound knowledge of the plight of children in African countries.  Nicole Harris of C.A.R.E began her workshop with the kids by asking them what they already learned and the students did not disappoint. They informed her of how difficult it is to simply obtain clean water and how they had built a solution during class. With that information in tow, the kids had a great beginning context to be able to speak to the children they were writing to with thoughtful and meaningful encouragement. It was really quite remarkable to see the empathy in the students’ writings and in their conversations. (See this news article about the children’s letter writing campaign.)

We put a great deal of planning into our summer camps, after-school programs and enrichment camps but sometimes you just get fortunate to have a perfect storm of great people, awesome programming and unexpected fortune. Mental Fitness is focused on providing highly rigorous programming in a fun and engaging way so students of all ages not only understand the content but run to it. Having partners like Level Up Village and C.A.R.E. help us to carry out our mission in a most impressive way. See you next summer!