By Rob Schroeder
May 23, 2018
For young kids living in cities, problems like pollution might seem abstract, says Ernesto Reyna, director of the Educational Technology Lab (ETL) at the UIC College of Education.
“They might not see the effects of contamination, and they think, ‘This is something that is going to happen 20 years from now,’” Reyna said. “We want to provide access to activities and experiments that show this is happening right now.”
Reyna and the team at ETL will do just that when they host a series of free summer camps for low-income children in Chicagoland focused on earth science, sustainability, robotics and technology. This is the third straight year ETL is hosting summer camps, expanding to four weekly camps in 2018 to meet demand from children and parents.
Kids at last year’s ETL Summer Camp work with a hydroponics unit and are potting plants.
Kids will engage in hands-on learning, studying pollution and the greenhouse effect while exploring solutions including hydroponics, aquaponics and composting. On the technology side, participants will learn to program using code, build web pages, create animation and build a miniature racecar.
The camps are part of ETL’s efforts to engage with Chicago communities and foster experiences for low-income children in university settings.
“We’re hoping kids will grow up understanding that everything in our environment is interdependent,” Reyna said. “We’re teaching kids about the water cycle, and how composting is a natural way to avoid the use of pesticides and nitrates, making a positive impact on the overall water supply.”
Reyna says the access to technology that the camp provides helps kids expand creativity and critical thinking skills. Once kids understand how code impacts how a computer program works, he says, opportunities are opened to build more advanced skills with programs like Java.
A girl at last year’s ETL Summer Camp sits at a computer, typing code to make a robotic dog in front of her move.
The race car project will take place on a racetrack circling the lab and will introduce concepts including speed, acceleration and measuring the efficiency of an electrical motor.
“We are trying to remind each successive generation of students that universities exist to serve them and their communities,” Reyna said. “We are hoping kids we engage with will see that they can come here and build a career, that we care about them and our city.”
This year’s summer camp dates are June 18-22, June 25-29, July 9-13 and July 16-20. To sign up, download this flyer or contact the ETL team at firstname.lastname@example.org.