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Students take on the UCA Challenge

Posted: July 10, 2014 - 9:34am
Students see the reaction when fat and soap are mixed.
Students see the reaction when fat and soap are mixed.

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Students and parents alike look forward to the Summer months.

For the kids, it’s a welcome release from school and the same desk for eight hours a day, but for parents, this is a time for summer camps and for the house to be a bit quieter.

Educators at the University of Central Arkansas saw a need for a student summer camp that enriched the lives of students but offered a fun and exciting approach. The UCA Challenge was designed to address these concerns.

Lisa Herrington, director, begins planning the program in January by contacted all past instructors. These instructors are fully involved in the programs’ creations and use the resources at their disposal and their expertise in a given field to design age-appropriate and fun lessons for throughout the week.

The camp focuses on science and hosts at least one chemistry-based class each year.

“There are different units each year, so each time a kid comes, it will be different every time,” said Herrington, “The activities are designed by UCA faculty. They are experts and it is really great to see both the kids and the professors working together and learning.”

There are four sections and students can choose three they wish to participate in throughout the week.

Dr. Barlaj Menon, a professor of physics and astronomy at UCA, taught the basics of electricity. Scattered throughout the classroom were little machines, which buzzed when you touched them.

“The kids built these from a kit, and with them are transmitting electric signals using Morse Code to communicate with each other. This activity is not only fun, but also it explains what is needed to create a circuit and how to use it,” said Menon.

Each professor works with an assistant, who is certified in a certain area. These assistants have roles ranging from classroom management to experiment facilitators and they are just as excited to participate as the professors and children.

The summer camp was born from the Super Kids program, which brought kids who were entering the first, second, and third grade. Once students had made it to their final year parents and kids alike wanted more, and so, the UCA Challenge was created. Utilizing a grant awarded by the foundation, the camp began with a humble $2,600 and after the initial year, has been self-sufficient and tuition based for almost a decade.

“Professors use their resources from their UCA classrooms. The department has been very supportive not only with resources, but also offering up the rooms and supporting the programs endeavors to expand,” said Herrington.

The program lasts one week beginning every day at 8:30 a.m., and it dismisses students at 2:30 p.m.

“Parents really like it because you don’t have to park,” Harrington said. “They drive up and we walk out get the kids and then they leave. In the afternoons we go up to the cars, find out who they are looking for then go get whoever they need. It’s an easy process and in this heat, very convenient.”

Herrington discussed that in the future she does not necessarily want to extend the time of the program, but hopes to expand the instructor base to be able to “host more kids at a time and provide high quality science education,” said Herrington.

For more information on UCA Challenge, contact Lisa Herrington at lisah@uca.edu.

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