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Montana State science summer camp is teaching middle school students about more than just science

Kids and Snakes
Posted at 4:18 PM, Jun 12, 2024

BOZEMAN — Something's slithering on the Montana State University campus as the school's Explore Earth & Space Science Camp marks its return.

“Are you excited about the reptiles in there?” I asked Talon, a 7th grader from the Flathead reservation. He told me, “I am, actually. I’m excited to learn about them, how they live. I never knew about that”.

Talon is one of the many students participating in this year’s five-day summer camp.

“What made me want to come to this camp is the awesome opportunities that they give. The teachers give us opportunities that I've never really had at school,” says Talon.

The goal of this camp is to encourage middle school students to learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math in a fun way.

I asked another student, Athena, a 7th grader from the Crow reservation, “Do you think this is like school?”. She told me, “No this is much funner than school."

Athena says this camp is better than school because of all the hands-on activities.

“The whole idea here is to really bring science to life, and to get the kids thinking about Montana, Montana careers, how to better their communities, and get excited about everything,” says Jamie Cornish, the science education and outreach specialist.

Some of the activities the students did on Monday included building robots, Mars bases, CPR training, and learning about reptiles.

The reptile handlers were from Scales and Tales, an outreach program run through The Viv Bioactive. The students are also living in campus dorms all week in hopes of getting them excited about college.

For eight years, federal grants from NASA and the National Institutes of Health have allowed Explore Earth and Space Science Camp to be a free educational opportunity for young minds.

“We're hoping we can really build a great workforce in Montana and show kids that there's great science happening in our state. There’s incredible careers, and again, we want them to come here, represent their communities, and take all they learned back to their communities,” says Jamie.

But Jamie tells me this camp is not only about teaching students science.

“The classes that I was in today were teaching me about the Indian ways and how they used to live,” says Talon.

The students at this year’s camp are from the Flathead and Crow reservations. Many activities they’ll take part in at Explore Earth and Space Science Camp, involve investigating native and western science.

And Athena tells me, “I think the stuff here would be useful for my community. Like, I could somehow help."