News from the College of Education & Human Development

Summer Fun at the CEHD

August 3, 2009 in College News, Planetarium News

The College of Education and Human Development and Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium host a variety of summer camps each year that allow kids to have fun while learning about math, science, technology and more. Many of the campers stated that if school were this much fun, they would want to go every day.

Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium Summer Camps

The Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium (GSH&RP) hosted its second series of successful summer camps for kids aged 6 – 11. The planetarium offered three different types of camps this year, Space Camp, Arts Stars, in partnership with Speed Museum, and Earth Camp.

space camp

At Space Camp, the planetarium staff worked with swim coaches at the Natatorium to teach the kids what it’s like to do astronaut training in the pool. The training was designed to help them learn what weightlessness is like and how to build structures under water. “This activity is very similar to the type of training astronauts receive under water,” stated Rachel Connolly, director of the GSH&RP.

The kids could not contain their enthusiasm about the “fun stuff” they get to do at the camp. “I liked the astronaut training the best. It was fun to float like there was no gravity and build stuff in the pool,” said Nathanial.

The campers also had a chance to build aliens and do journal entries each day about their activities. “We had to write in our journals about our opinions about aliens and other life in the universe,” stated one of the students. “That was the best part for me–writing about aliens.”

Parents and guardians were invited to see the kids’ final project for Space Camp which was the Egg-drop. The kids had to build a ship around an egg so it could land safely on “Mars.” “Mars” was the courtyard at the planetarium and each space ship was dropped from a ladder. If the egg didn’t break, they had a successful landing. But given the excitement the kids expressed during the final day of camp, clearly all their projects were smashing success!

Summer Portfolio Institute

The “You’ve Got the Write One” Summer Portfolio Institute (SPI), sponsored by Pepsico America, has integrated mathematics, writing and technology in a fun, collaborative learning environment for campers and teachers for the past 15 years. The theme for this year’s institute was “Are you smarter than: an engineer, travel agent or CSI?”

The campers are in grades 4 – 8 and were assigned a variety of activities ranging from CSI detective work, to the study of the engineering by building a container to protect an egg when dropped. For the egg drop project, they had to plan and purchase materials, create a budget proposal and design their project.

Another popular project with the campers is the desk blotter which is a poster they create to record all their daily activities and showcase the writing they are doing in connection to the mathematics and technology projects. “The desk blotter describes ourselves and what we do at camp,” stated Myelle. “It is a lot of fun to make it.”


“…This is better than school and you still learn a lot of stuff. I’d really like to come back next year,” stated Noor, a fourth grader at the camp.

Planning for SPI begins with three days of professional development for participating teachers. The teachers are then assigned to teaching teams, and plan a week of activities using many of the ideas learned during the professional development sessions. “SPI builds a great sense of community among the teachers. And many of them like to come back and serve in leadership roles the next year,” stated E. Todd Brown, director of the Summer Portfolio Institute.

“SPI energizes me for the school year. I would love to apply in my classroom the same hands-on work and instruction we use at the camp. This is really what teaching should be,” stated Joanne Jones, a teacher taking part in the camp.

“Teachers design assignments that infuse the elements of critical thinking, inquiry, advocacy and action into the program,” stated Dr. Brown. Critical thinking is part of Ideas to Action, (i2a), a quality enhancement plan that improves student learning. Faculty at UofL are using the plan to shape curricular innovations in support of i2a.

SPI has served about 800 students and teachers over the years. The funding from Pepsico America enables Dr. Brown to update materials and technology for the institute.

“The most rewarding thing about SPI is to see what students can really do. They are so proud to show their projects to parents and CEHD staff on the last day of the institute,” stated Dr. Brown.