Rising fifth to eighth graders in the Promise Zone of West Philadelphia are enjoying six weeks of fun and learning at the Drexel Young Dragons STEAM Summer Camp, offered at no cost by the ExCITe Center and the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation.
From June 17 to July 25, around 50 kids from the five different elementary and middle schools of the Promise Zone participated in different themed activities each week Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnership. Aside from the daily camp schedule, occasional events at the ExCITe Center and some field trips were held that, in addition to being free, provided breakfast and lunch to its campers.
On the fourth week, the camp had a different schedule when they worked until Friday to prepare for a special showcase during their “Space Exploration” week. The campers were divided into classrooms where they presented the different facets involved in an astronautic trip. The biology group showed how dry the skin of an astronaut may become, preparing a specialized lotion and soap to hydrate the skin both on space and on Earth, the astrophysics group created rocket prototypes with recyclable materials, the engineering group created robots that could be exploration rover robots ready to be shipped to space, among many other outstanding exhibitions.
Besides “Space Exploration,”, the camp has multiple themes to offer each week, like “Sports Science,” “Music Technology,” “Sneaker Design and Engineering,” “Visual Arts and Animation” and “Dance, Movement and Design.” All of the themes go through the broad spectrum of STEAM — standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Athletics and Mathematics — which has been the foundation for all the work of the ExCITe Center since its creation, according to the center’s president, Youngmoo Kim.
“ExCITe is the interdisciplinary hub of the university. We bring together people from faculty to students from all different disciplines to work on innovative projects, so STEAM is a natural fit for that,” Kim said.
According to Kim, the challenges that our society faces today are open-ended problems, and this is why campers at Drexel Young Dragons are exposed to STEAM processes and open-ended activities.
“There has been a big emphasis on STEM, which can be somewhat reductive because it reinforces this idea that there are only right or wrong answers”, Kim said. “It’s in the arts and design that you get familiarity and facility with problems that do not have only one right answer. When you add the arts and design, it also becomes much more inclusive. The STEM fields face a lot of challenges with diversity and by integrating arts and design we can bring more people.”
This is the fourth consecutive year that The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation and the ExCITe Center have been hosting this camp, and it has grown in both duration and number of campers. However, it is the third year they have done it in partnership with the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement and the Dornsife Center.
“Malcolm and his foundation have done amazing programs, mostly sports themed, in every city that he has played, so when he started with the Eagles, he wanted to do something in Philadelphia. And he has been an incredible advocate and activist. He has been engaged with the Philadelphia and state of Pennsylvania communities on social injustice issues and criminal justice reform,” Kim said referring to why the football athlete was interested in creating this summer day camp.
The group of camp counselors that supervise the activities done in the camp comprises students and faculty from Drexel’s School of Education, as well as students and faculty from other schools, including students who are doing their co-op at the ExCITe Center, STAR Scholars and Lindy Scholars.