CADILLAC — It's not often students are encouraged to move about their classrooms, explore and make a mess but at STEM Camp that is exactly what they are supposed to do. 

Since Tuesday, Cadillac Area Public Schools elementary students were engaged in different types of scientific experiments including the construction of a water slide for a marble, the heating and cooling of a piece of chocolate and the formation of crystals. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.

With the new school year starting in less than two weeks for Cadillac students, some might wonder why students would want to be engaged in school-like activities. Incoming Cadillac third-grader Laken Minnoy, however, said that is an easy question to answer. 

"I wanted to get some learning in before school starts and I'm interested in science," the 8-year-old said. "I'm excited for school to start." 

Franklin Elementary First Grade teacher Russ Helsel said STEM Camp allows students and teachers to some of the projects that they may not have time to do during the regular school year. With that in mind, Helsel said the idea of having STEM Camp came about a few years ago and it has been happening every summer since. 

"We wanted to let the kids explore more. Have less see time and let them get out and do some of the fun science stuff that applies to the real world," he said. "That was our vision and we have been doing that for a few years now." 

He said the idea is to give the students who go to STEM Camp science on their terms and hopefully will keep them interested in the subject. Helsel said his wife is a science teacher and she has a sign in her classroom. It says something to the effect that all kids start as scientists but then adults take that interest out of them and only a few survive.

Again the hope is STEM Camp fosters a scientific way of thinking and keeps them motivated. 

"It gives them science on their terms, exploration and says it's OK to make a mess. It is kids just being kids," Helsel said. 

Cadillac News