Science summer camp shoots for the stars
Heather Christensen gathered her students around a rug in a classroom at Park City Day School, and as she read Dr. Seuss’ "There’s No Place Like Space," she asked the young children what galaxy they live in. One boy raised his hand to say it was the Star Wars Galaxy. Christensen smiled and informed the class it was actually the Milky Way Galaxy, receiving many gasps and shocked faces.
The class is part of the week-long astronomy portion of Park City Day School’s four-week science summer camp. The school is offering kindergarten through second-grade students throughout the community the chance to learn in-depth about science topics they may not encounter for several years.
"We covered life science the first week, then botany the second week and now astronomy," Christensen said. "We’ll do this one more week, which is going to be environmental awareness week next week."
Christensen is a substitute teacher throughout the school year, the Aftercare afterschool program director and now the summer science camp teacher. She said her students create a "science journal" at the beginning of each week to write in about their experiences and put pictures in to document their activities.
According to Chloe Vezina, a student in the camp, their journals are black, "because the night sky is black." She said she likes studying Venus the most, because it is gold, which is one of her favorite colors.
her side all morning is her friend Greta Knapp. Her mother, Margaret Knapp, said her daughter will be entering kindergarten at Park City Day School in the fall. She she signed her daughter up for the camp because she loves astronomy.
"We have just always been outdoors as a family and bought a telescope for her and her younger sister, so we’ve seen Jupiter and its rings. They also really enjoy seeing the other planets at the planetarium in Salt Lake City," she said. "They just love the night sky, and when you’re living in Park City, you have to take advantage of that."
As Christensen read to the class about Pluto and its freezing temperatures, she asked the class what kind of planet they thought Pluto was. While most of the students blurted out "the smallest planet" or "it’s not a planet anymore," Greta sat patiently with her hand raised to answer, "It is actually called a ‘dwarf planet.’"
"Astronomy is really fun," she said. "We’re learning about the moon today, and that’s fun, because I’ve seen it through my telescope with my sister."
The students walked to their assigned seats to begin an art project based on the different phases of the moon as Christensen drew a waxing crescent, a waning crescent and a first quarter moon on the dry erase board.
"I have an activity where we have a lamp as the sun, and they will draw their own little moon to rotate around it and see the different phases," Christensen said. "We are also doing little Oreo activities, so they get to make a phase of the moon with the cookie."
When she informed her students of the Oreo cookie activity, several children’s eyes lit up with excitement. They had to finish their art activity first, and with Oreo cookies in mind, the students got right to work.
"They have a blast, and they go home and tell their parents all about it," Christensen said. "We always send them home with their finished journals at the end, and their parents get to look through them. We always have a bunch of fun, every single week."
Enrollment is ongoing. Those interested in registering their students for environmental science week next week can contact Park City Day School at 435-649-2791 or visit the school at 3120 Pinebrook Rd.
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