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HOT SPRINGS -- Around 25 children had a fun time learning about penguins and snowflakes Friday at Mid-America Science Museum's STEAM Power Camp.

The camp participants learned about each element of STEAM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and math, while participating in various activities.

Casey Wylie, director of education at the museum, called it "guerrilla learning," because the children learn without realizing they are learning. The "best learning happens" when the kids are having fun, she said.

For science, the camp participants learned how penguins are able to keep warm. Wylie explained that penguins have a wax on them that prevents water from getting their feathers wet. To demonstrate that, the children colored pictures of penguins that were then covered in wax.

The children then poured water onto their works of art and saw how the water beaded up and didn't soak the paper.

For engineering, the children were given cardboard and told to build cardboard cities.

This is the fourth year that the museum has held winter camps. It plans to host four camps while children are out of school on winter break. Wylie said the program has grown each year.

She said the museum hosts these events to help keep the children learning. "Anytime you're not in school, [you] start to have a little bit of a slide," Wylie said.

She said the museum is able to approach teaching differently than schools do.

"We don't have to focus on retention [or] testing," and can deviate from lesson plans. For example, Wylie said if a student asks why he has to put a certain amount of an ingredient into the slime, she encourages the child to change the recipe and see what happens.

Educator Rebecca Mann said this is the first year that she has worked at the winter camps.

"I think it's going really well," she said, adding that by having five different activities, each child can find something to enjoy.

She said employing things that children already enjoy doing is a good way to teach. "Kids color all the time," she said, and adding wax to the coloring pages lets children learn while doing something they really enjoy. She also said the youths were able to take their projects home with them.

Hughes doesn't normally help at the camps but said they are a good thing, "especially after the holidays." The camps get the children out of the house and give parents a place for the youths to go when the adults have to return to work.

The first camp held this winter break was inspired by Harry Potter. The two remaining camps will be themed around the video game Minecraft and cinema. The Minecraft camp is already sold out, but Wylie said the movie camp still has vacancies.

At the movie camp, Wylie said children will learn the entire process of movie-making. She said participants will write a short film, and then they will stop-motion animate it. They will "use a computer to sew it all together," Wylie said.

"By the end of the day, they will have a completed movie," Wylie said. That camp will be held Friday and costs $50, or $45 for members.

State Desk on 12/29/2019

Print Headline: Museum's winter camps let kids learn by doing activities they enjoy


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