Normal Iowa family has a very Odd (Squad) camp experience

Sep 27, 2018

Normal Iowa family has a very Odd (Squad) camp experience


Last summer, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension hosted a special camp program at the Storm Lake Methodist Church, provided through a partnership with Iowa PBS (Iowa PBS). The Odd Squad camp incorporated STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning while children took on the roles of Odd Squad agents. They solved odd cases, designed odd gadgets, played digital and offline games and learned from the original agents from the popular PBS KIDS show, Odd Squad.

Why do kids need camps like these? The answers are plentiful. Just ask Anna Negrete and her two children, Sofia (8) and Santiago (5).  Anna works as a third grade teacher at the Storm Lake Elementary School where she learned about the camp and enrolled her kids. She felt it was important because neither she nor her husband, who works in the radiology department at the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, had the resources or opportunity to participate in such a camp while they were growing up.  Anna wanted to provide this advantage to her children, and she didn’t stop there. She stepped up to help lead the camp after receiving an email seeking additional help.

During the camp, kids worked with other kids who were different ages, went to different schools and even lived in other towns. Sofia’s favorite memory was doing hands-on activities and challenges at the end of each day. Santiago, who is obsessed with numbers, told Anna his favorite part of camp was making friends and working with others. Anna believes learning to cooperate with others is a life skill that will open doors for her kids in the future. She wants to teach all kids to get along and work together despite their differences, so they will have a more accepting society as adults.

Can a camp really help kids in so many ways? Anna believes so. Sofia has aspirations of becoming a doctor, astronaut or scientist when she grows up. All of those career paths will require STEM learning and working well with others. Santiago told Anna he’s thinking of becoming an engineer, teacher or doctor. Maybe the camp helped to inspire his desire to become an engineer. Anna thinks anything involving math, science and cooperation will get her kids closer to their dream careers.

Iowa PBS has been working in the Storm Lake area as part of a Ready to Learn grant. The grant from the U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting provided the camp curriculum and activities. Some outreach activities have staff involvement from Iowa PBS, but other outreach included partnering with schools and other entities like the Storm Lake Public Library and ISU Extension. Anna has taken advantage of many of these offerings.

“I think many of our kids are eager to learn new things especially when it comes to science,” Anna said. “We also have great administration who are devoted to student achievement. The only thing I would wish for is that this type of program could be offered to more kids. Sofia and Santiago had the privilege to attend the Scratch Jr. coding camp, the Odd Squad Camp, and the Family and Community Learning sessions for preschoolers and their families. Even though my kids were learning important skills, there are other kids who didn’t participate from our school district who would benefit way more than my own.”

How can more families take advantage of these Ready To Learn resources? By keeping an eye open for upcoming events this coming year! Also, by checking with the library, ISU Extension and school newsletters. ISU Extension plans to provide another Odd Squad camp this Fall.  Contact Nichol Kleespies, for more information.

Curriculum for the Odd Squad camp can be found here on PBS LearningMedia. Contact Iowa PBS if Spanish materials are needed.

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