Camp Curtin Happenings

Hello — Jess here. Just want to give a little information about what my placement is like here at Camp Curtin Academy. Before I talk about my day to day tasks, let me give a little background information about the school. Camp Curtin became a middle school, grades 5-8, 2 years ago, after being an elementary through middle school for many years. Some schools were shut down, some things rearranged and, bam! here we are with Camp Curtin. A school were teachers who never worked together before were all thrown together, kids who live in different neighborhoods all thrown together, and then they give the teacher some pay cuts and take away most extra-curriculars from the kids. So yeah, these past two years have been survival mode for the school district. But I am certainly not here to bad-mouth the district. I think these schools are full of great students and great teachers, they just have different issues to deal with and greater obstacles to overcome to get to graduation.
So here I am, working in a school that is so foreign to me in so many ways. When I first learned about this job I would be doing for the next year of my life, I thought it would be great to interact in this environment, learn from those around me, and practice all the community development theories I had learned in the classroom. And don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed those things at times, but it so much more overwhelming than I could have ever imagined. And I now realize how much every twenty something freshly graduated thinks they know about the world -HAH. I will save all my reflective lessons for another day, because I am really here to tell you about my job!
So what does a Community Engagement Mobilizer do? I ask myself that every day after I chuckle that I have such a fancy job title. My main task for the past seven months has been starting up a MakerSpace after school program at Camp Curtin. This small, pilot program is based on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) education. In each of these subjects we have/are starting a hands-on, experiential learning project that engages students to learn real life skills in these subjects. We have a community member who is an expert in that subject and a teacher from the school lead groups of 5-8 students in these after school programs. [if I had a dollar for every time I have given this spiel to someone, I’d have more than a little chump change to throw around] So there is my mouth full of a job description. We are trying to train student leaders by giving them opportunities to learn in a different way and expend energy in a productive way (which after this long winter I can tell you they have plenty of energy). Also, since the whole idea of this after school program is terribly lofty, let me explain a few of the programs going on.
Our Engineering project took form in a national program called Future City. The kids in the program had an Engineering mentor and teacher who helped them in the task of designing a city that was able to grow enough of one protein and one vegetable to fed everyone in the city. They used SimCity software to design a city, taking into consideration everything from taxes, to zoning, to infrastructure. Along with the computer design, they built a model city with recycled materials, wrote an essay, and presented to a panel of judges full of Engineering experts at the Central PA competition in January. Most of these kids knew nothing about engineering before starting the project, but by the end they were confidently talking about the way a city works. It was awesome. Although they didn’t place in the competition, they were rockstars.
All of our other projects are ongoing or just beginning. Our Science project is beginning to shape into an Urban Agriculture initiative, where kids will be growing plants in the greenhouse located on Camp Curtin property. Our Arts and Media club has transformed the school’s newspaper club into a Digital Media club that will teach kids to make news reports, videos, etc. We will be starting a robotics program soon that will teach kids how to build robots and understand their components. And our past project will be a GIS mapping project that will use a bike lane plan for the city to teach kids mapping skills. So we have some good stuff going on.
So there is a sneak peek into what is going on here at Camp Curtin. Mostly just me pretending to be an adult and learning a lot from middle school kids. Peace, blog readers!

-Jess

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