BOCES’ Center for Environmental Education Brings STEM-Focused Fun to Local School District


Each summer, the Center for Environmental Education offers Summer Science and Exploration Camps at BOCES’ Madden Outdoor Education Center in Kent Cliffs, N.Y. These camps give area students an opportunity to explore nature and the excitement of scientific discovery. This year, for the first time, BOCES brought the Madden camp experience right into a local school district, with a weeklong program held at Furnace Woods Elementary School in the Hendrick Hudson School District.

“Earlier in the school year, the district had expressed a desire to provide its students with a STEM-related summer camp,” said CEE Coordinator Dorna Schroeter. “We provided the district with a range of STEM-focused camp options and they were able to choose the specific titles that interested them.”

CEE staff ran three separate “mini camps,” organized by grade level (K-1st grade, 2nd and 3rd grade, and 4th and 5th grade) during the second week in August.

The youngest campers enjoyed a week titled “Myth Busters: Fairy Tale Science,” during which they looked at popular fairy tales from a completely new perspective. Applying engineering design principles, campers determined whether they could “rescue” a character in need: Could they solve Humpty Dumpty’s problem staying on the wall? Or engineer a wind-capturing device to protect the Three Little Pig’s house from the Big Bad Wolf’s huffing and puffing?

In the “Secrets of Super Heroes” camp, offered to 2nd and 3rd graders, campers attempted to uncover the secrets of several popular superheroes. For example, how does Spiderman stick to walls? Are Wonder Woman’s bracelets truly indestructible? Campers employed the engineering design process to create their own superhero innovations and even had the opportunity to design a projectile launcher worthy of any superhero.

The program offered to the oldest campers was called “Nature and Technology: a Symbiotic Relationship.” In this program, campers learned that being a part of the digital age doesn’t need to cut them off from the natural world. Using technology such as video cameras and computers, campers set up a nature blog to bring their experiences “from the woods to the web.” A professional digital photographer and blogger even stopped by to share hints and techniques with the campers.

“Last year Emma gave us all a very big scare when she got sick and spent a number of months in the hospital,” said Schneider during the award ceremony. “But she is such a fighter, and we are so proud of her. Today is Emma’s 14th birthday, and I’m sure this award will be a present she will treasure.”