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Hands-on camp aims to get students excited about STEM

This summer, the University of North Georgia (UNG) is teaming up with the Georgia Youth Science & Technology Centers Inc. (GYSTC) to offer STEM Discovery Camp on the university's Blue Ridge Campus. The camp, geared toward third- through fifth-graders, will allow students to explore topics and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

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Blue Ridge-area teachers work on science experiments during a professional development workshop held on UNG's Blue Ridge campus in partnership with the Georgia Youth Science & Technology Centers.

This summer, the University of North Georgia (UNG) is teaming up with the Georgia Youth Science & Technology Centers Inc. (GYSTC) to offer STEM Discovery Camp on the university's Blue Ridge Campus. The camp, geared toward third- through fifth-graders, will allow students to explore topics and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The STEM Discovery Camp is only being offered at eight locations across Georgia this summer, including UNG's Blue Ridge Campus.

"We are very excited that our emergent partnership with GYSTC allows us to have offerings, such as the STEM Discovery Camp, to serve our local teachers on the Blue Ridge Campus," said Dr. April Nelms, assistant professor of science education at UNG. "We know it is important for children to have authentic, firsthand experiences in STEM so that they form and maintain interest in years to come."

Set for June 13-17, the STEM Discovery Camp is a unique, four-day learning experience for elementary school students who will become the next generation of innovators, engineers, doctors, software developers and scientists. Students taking part in the camp will engage in workshops and hands-on activities in the areas of engineering and technology, medicine and technology and environmental science.

The first three days will be interwoven with career discussions, demonstrations and hands-on activities for students. The camp pulls everything together on the final day to discuss "Mapping Your Future," which includes a panel of subject matter experts representing various STEM fields and a personal success planning workshop, among other activities.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for area elementary students to keep learning this summer because the camp will spark a child's curiosity while making learning fun," Sandy Ott, director of UNG's Blue Ridge Campus, said. "The partnership between the GYSTC and UNG is opening doors for STEM opportunities in this area and for the younger students in elementary school."

During spring semester, GYSTC also held a hands-on, professional development workshop for middle school science teachers on UNG's Blue Ridge Campus.

The summer camp and burgeoning partnership with GYSTC is one of many ways UNG works to support STEM education in an effort to help address the national shortage of workers employed in scientific fields. 

Nearly 60 percent of U.S. students who begin high school interested in a STEM field change their minds by graduation, according to a 2013 report from STEMconnector. The report also states that science and engineering jobs in the U.S. are expected to grow from 7.4 million in 2012 to more than 8.6 million by 2018.

UNG has received federal funding for workshops aimed at helping teachers at all grade levels spark their students' interests in STEM subjects, including ELIPSE, held in April for STEM teachers in Gainesville.

PSCI-Train, now in its second year, is another funded initiative aimed at STEM and local K-5 teachers. Also, in 2015, UNG's College of Science & Mathematics received a federal grant for nearly $615,000 to provide scholarships and job placement assistance to UNG students pursuing degrees in STEM fields.

Founded in 1989, GYSTC is a private, not-for-profit educational organization designed to increase interest in and enthusiasm for STEM as subjects for serious study, particularly among elementary and middle school teachers, students and parents in typically underserved areas in the state.

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