Three Bartow County fifth-graders just couldn’t squeeze all their learning into the nine-month school year.
Mackenzie Cornett and Caden Pearson from Clear Creek Elementary and Abbi Wear from Hamilton Crossing Elementary spent a week of their summer vacation attending the prestigious Envision National Youth Leadership Forum: Pathways to STEM, a weeklong program held on college campuses across the country that allows outstanding students in grades 3-5 to explore life as an engineer, a doctor or a detective.
The Bartow trio was among the 260 students who participated in the July 24-28 forum at Agnes Scott College in Decatur.
“This is a great opportunity for high-achieving scholars to get outside the classroom and see, through hands-on interactive learning, how to innovate and think creatively,” said Andrew Potter, chief academic officer for the program, in a press release. “These students, who have already proven themselves academically, are challenged to work on real-world, student-created projects to bring their studies to life.”
Students who attend the unique academic-development program study engineering, medicine and forensic science in a journey that introduces them to potential college and career paths.
Simulation and role-playing exercises also introduce them to team-building, problem-solving, presentation skills and goal-setting, all of which are essential for success in the 21st century.
“They will scrub in as doctors, build robots and investigate classic ‘whodunit’ crimes,” Potter said. “Each experience is designed to tap into a student’s natural curiosity. For many, this is the beginning of a lifelong passion for a special area of interest.”
Robin Morrow, GATEWAY teacher at Clear Creek, said she was charged with nominating 10 students who would be “great candidates for the STEM leadership forum.”
“As an educator, I’m always looking for unique and rewarding opportunities for my students,” she said, noting this is the second year she’s had students participate. “It’s always exciting to hear about the students’ adventures and to see their increased interests, talents and leadership skills.”
Mackenzie, 10, said she attended the program for the second time because “I love science, engineering and leadership.”
“I think I am very good at those things,” she said. “I thought it was very neat. I would give it a very good rating because it makes you feel very special and a high class of learner. I think other kids would enjoy it, too.”
During the program, the daughter of Erica Cornett said the students performed a cow heart dissection, put together and raced mBots, built bristle bots and participated in a crime-scene investigation.
“I loved the beef heart dissection because it was very interesting to see what the inside of the heart looked like,” she said. “I like being able to touch it.”
But the straight-A student said she is leaning toward possibly being an engineer or detective when she grows up.
“I might want to be an engineer because I like to build things or a detective because I like to solve crimes — looking for evidence, studying suspects, test for DNA samples, etc.,” she said, noting she’s a member of the LEGO robotics team, Junior Beta Club, chorus and GATEWAY program at school.
Caden, who also belongs to Clear Creek’s robotics team and Beta Club, attended the program “because it was a STEM camp.”
While dissecting the cow heart was his favorite activity because it was “interesting,” the 9-year-old said he wants to be an engineer when he gets older.
“I want to invent stuff,” the son of Stephanie and Justin Pearson said.
A member of chorus, garden club, STEM club, puppet club, safety patrol and the Science Olympiad team, Abbi said she attended the camp because she “wanted to learn more about STEM and have more hands-on opportunities,” and she was grateful one of her GATEWAY teachers, Shelly Abernathy, nominated her for it.
“I couldn’t have attended without the nomination so it is a huge honor to be nominated,” she said.
The program was eye-opening for the daughter of Randy and Kelli Wear, and she had a change of heart after attending.
“I wanted to be an engineer before camp, but after camp, I think I want to be a doctor now,” she said. “I want to be a doctor because I learned more about how they help every day, and I really liked learning more about the heart.”
Besides doing the dissection, the 10-year-old also did other activities related to the organ.
“I also aided in building a heart-pumping system using jars, fishing tubes and fake blood,” she said. “We also divided into groups to focus on one area, and my group focused on medicine. For our class presentation, we demonstrated how to splint a broken arm.”
But Abbi said “making the mini robot called a bristle bot and a mBot” ended up being her favorite activities.
“I love to build robots and watch them come to life and actually move around,” she said. “We even had a race with them, and it was fun seeing all of the bristle bots and mBots we made with just simple household items.”
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