This summer, approximately seventy-five k-7 graders were on Drake University’s campus for the first ever Spanish Immersion STEM camp. The students were a part of St. Anthony’s Spanish Immersion program, one of the only programs of its kind in the Des Moines Metro, where the entire school curriculum is taught in Spanish by native Spanish speakers. St. Anthony School is located on Des Moines’ south side. The school’s students come from 22 different zip codes and 50% of the student population are of minority status.
“STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and math) camps are not that unusual, but a Spanish Immersion STEM camp is an innovative idea that doesn’t occur that often,” says Dr. Tom Buckmiller, who is on the education faculty at Drake University. Buckmiller says Senora Marisol Guerra, kindergarten teacher at St. Anthony School, reached out to him with a partnership idea for Drake. “This is a great opportunity for the Drake University School of Education to partner with a local Des Moines school to create worthwhile learning opportunities for students,” Buckmiller says.
Guerra, a native of Honduras, along with teachers Ana Rodrigo and Carlos Marquez, used the STEM materials and translated the curriculum into Spanish. The objectives of the camp were to build confidence in the students’ ability to generate and understand concepts in science; experience excitement, interest and motivation to learning about phenomena in the nature and physical world; and use scientific activities and learning practices with others using scientific language and tools in Spanish.
Guerra noted, “the students loved STEM camp because they had the opportunity to design and create things they normally see in real life such as plane, trains, parachutes, automobiles and more. The fact that they could design it, test it, and then improve it was a great way to help develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills.” This was Guerra’s first year teaching this material and said she really enjoyed this work, “I had a great time just being a guide in the students’ thinking…watching and listening to them talk about what to do and what to change and why it worked or didn’t.”
Drake’s new Collier-Scripps building houses the School of Education and was the host for the camp. Guerra said, “It was nice to use the spacious classroom with 4 interactive boards and all the resources available to us. Everyone at Drake was great to work with. I hope we can have more collaborations and partnerships with Drake in the future.” Guerra thanked Dr. Sara Derry, who is the south-central STEM hub regional manager, for her help with the camp. “Sara and her staff were wonderful,” Guerra said.
This was the first year for “Campamento STEM” and served as a pilot program. Camp organizers are considering opening it up to other Spanish speaking elementary students in the community in the future.