OKC National Memorial & Museum’s summer camp teaches students about the importance of STEM careers 

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Middle school students can explore the science behind an important event in Oklahoma’s history this summer. Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is preparing for its second year of summer science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) camp. It runs 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through July 14 at the memorial, 620 N. Harvey Ave. It costs $200 per child and is open to students entering sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

The weeklong day camp is moving from half-days to full days of activity this summer. Lynne Porter, director of educational experience at the museum, said the change to full days allows for greater time with forensic scientists.

The museum’s interactive spaces spurred the camp’s conception. The interactive tables and touch screens in the STEM lab accommodate 42 students at a time.

The camp partners with the University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO) Forensic Science Institute to teach middle school students about forensic practices.

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“They do different DNA testing with the kids,” Porter said. “The kids can collect their own DNA, [and] they look at footprints and how to get the mold from that and they solve a crime.”

STEM campers see a presentation on bomb dogs and talk to structural engineers during the week.

“We look at how wood, steel and concrete are impacted by different disasters, so explosions, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes,” she said. “Then they do an exercise on building structures out of toothpicks and marshmallows and withstanding an earthquake.”

Workshops on environmental science are new to the camp this year and are supported by a partnership with Noble Research Institute. Campers will test soil and discuss the ecosystem of the outdoor symbolic memorial.

“I mean, we have grass around the chairs that’s different than other grass because we had to think of, ‘Okay; well, what can be well traveled on? Because a lot of people are going to be walking on it,’” Porter said. “And also how the outdoor symbolic memorial was built and the different construction that was used and challenges with that.”

As technology continues to change, the memorial’s summer camp focuses on the impact of the past on these updates.

“Technology and all of this stuff they use in forensics is so different now, and … it’s important to show kids the lessons learned from [the bombing] and positive things that have come out of this to help others and other situations,” she said.

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing memorial might not be synonymous with STEM, but Porter said the camp made sense in terms of combining science, engineering and history. Organizers and speakers will focus on scientific practices in tandem with continued historical impact.

“I think when people think of this museum and we say, ‘There’s going to be a camp,’ they’re like, ‘Oh. Is that going to be sad? Is that something where I’d send my kid?’” Porter said. “But then we start talking about, ‘Yes, this is a piece of history, but there’s so much involved with community, with different careers, and so it’s all integrated together.’”

Print headline: Junior scientists, OKC National Memorial & Museum’s STEM summer camp teaches students about the importance of STEM careers.

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