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Vision. Blassing. STEAM! (Feature)

Grandmothers, Mothers, and Wives (Feature)

Taking the Pain Out of Playing Time (AMDnet)

All Kids are Geniuses and Genius Hour Proves It! (ETnet)

 

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LEA is looking for writers in front-line ministries for articles in future ShapingtheFuture magazine pieces. If you would like to write, contact ed.grube@lea.org (do not reply to this publication) to express and discuss your interests.

 

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STREAMing Through Summer

The camp enables us to reach families who do not attend our church or school but do value our programming as an excellent childcare option during the summer months.St. Peter Lutheran Church and School has partnered with families for more than 150 years! One of these great partnerships has been through our Summer Days summer camp program. The camp began in 1997 as an outreach to our community and as an extension of our school. St. Peter’s Summer Days camp offers eight weeks of summer fun to families who are looking for childcare to fill those long summer days. We offer before- and after-camp care in addition to our regular camp day to help meet the needs of working families. Our goal is to provide a safe, nurturing, Christ-centered environment that engages children in a variety of recreational and educational experiences. We have seen this opportunity as an important ministry in our local community. The camp enables us to reach families who do not attend our church or school but do value our programming as an excellent childcare option during the summer months.

STEM gameWe strive for continuous improvement of our Summer Days camp and work to stay current with what parents are searching for to enrich the lives of their children. Based on feedback and current trends, we realized the need for more structure, along with educational, challenging, and innovative opportunities for our campers. Parents not only want a summer camp full of fun activities, but they also desire programming that enhances a child’s love for learning. We want to provide families with what they are seeking without compromising our Christian focus. All of these needs were met through STREAM. 

STEM, as many already know, stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Inclusion of the arts in our programming lead to STEAM, and with the religion component, we were able to offer STREAM activities. Parents have been enthusiastic about these additional opportunities. Specialized, certified teachers were hired to help incorporate art, music, and STEM classes into our camp curriculum.  We continue to bring God’s Word into the everyday lives of the children who attend our camp in both structured and more natural ways. It takes time to coordinate schedules, teachers, supplies, and counselors, but the benefits of this have been a blessing to our families and has added a competitive edge over other camps in the area.

Our camp theme is different every year, and this past summer it was “Camp On-Demand…STREAMing Live from St. Peter, Arlington Heights.” We planned a variety of STREAM activities that tied Bible truths into the weekly theme topics. A Pinterest link was helpful in connecting the two areas. Some experiments come with explanations /connections that may need to be doctrinally tweaked a bit, but most are straight-forward.

We started each day with 30 minutes of worship that included songs, devotions, mini chapel lessons, and other compelling ways to connect children to Christ.We started each day with 30 minutes of worship that included songs, devotions, mini chapel lessons, and other compelling ways to connect children to Christ. For many who attend Summer Days, this is the only church experience they have ever had. We utilized technology, skits, experiments, games, and videos to make our worship time impactful. Practical ways for children to apply God’s Word in their lives were included by giving daily challenges and sharing personal stories to bring these truths to life. We shared Scripture and Bible stories in interactive ways whenever possible. The message of the Gospel was reinforced by stressing to the children that they are special, they are loved, they are forgiven, and that we all are sinners who need Jesus in our lives. We encouraged the children to ask questions, talk to their counselors, visit our church on Sundays, and come to our youth groups to learn more about Jesus and how they can build a relationship with Him.

Our music and art classes were also tied to weekly themes and utilized technology whenever possible. In music, students were exposed to a variety of musical genres, note reading, rhythms, games, and instruments like African drums, rhythm sticks, and Boomwhackers®. Our art classes introduced the campers to the process of creating sculptures, shading, and using different mediums to create. Students also learned about famous paintings, artists, and art from around the world—all while providing a Christian point of view.

Summer Days Sample Costs:

  • Art teacher- $12.50 per hour x 6 hours per week
  • Music teacher- $12.50 per hour x 6 hours per week
  • STEM teacher- $12.50 per hour x15-18 hours a week with planning time
  • Art supplies for pre-8- $200 per week
  • Stem supplies for Pre-8 $150 (many supplies we had available to us)
  • Sphere Robotics- $100 apiece
  • iPads- we were able to use school iPads

One of the main goals for our 2017 summer camp was to incorporate more science activities, technology experiences, the engineering design process, and math skills in a fun and engaging manner. We wanted to build creativity, ingenuity, and learning without feeling like a typical school setting. During the STEM classes, campers completed a variety of learning tasks, challenges, and experiments. Connections between these activities and faith lessons were established whenever possible. Often, these interactions occurred in a simple, casual format during the explanation of an activity or its application. We hoped the children began to feel a sense that God is with us at all times and in all circumstances.

Below are some examples of the STEM activities that we conducted during our summer camp. They are grouped by themes where possible, and potential faith connections are included. These can also be incorporated into many science, social studies, math, reading, or religion lessons as well. The links will take you to many sites that we have found helpful in creating STEM lessons. The hope is that these will serve as a starting point on which further ideas can be built and expanded.

STEM stackWeather/Natural Disasters: 

Animals: 

Superheroes:

Helping Others:

Faith Lessons: Experiments illustrating faith lessons

Technology: Used for a variety of theme-related activities.

STREAM activities can be incorporated into almost any topic or subject area. There really is no separation between our faith and the tools we use (STEM) to learn about God’s wonderful creation around us. As we continue to intentionally seek ways to integrate these areas, the connections between them become more apparent. Incorporating fun and engaging STEM activities into our programs can help us reach children and families throughout our communities that may not otherwise participate. We then have the opportunity to share the Good News of God our Master Designer, Jesus our Hope and Salvation, and His Spirit which continually provides us with comfort and strength.

Jill Schutz currently serves as the Director of Admissions and Children’s Ministries at St. Peter Arlington Heights, Ill. She oversees several ministries, including the Summer Days camp. She has worked in ministry for 20 years, the last 8 of those with St. Peter. 

Mariana Knea currently serves as the Differentiation Coordinator at St. Peter Lutheran School and is also the STEM leader for the Summer Days camp. She has been in ministry for 24 years, the last 19 years at St. Peter.

Photos courtesy the author.