The study of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is present throughout our college world. Students, teachers, and employers are aligning themselves with these areas of study and skills to continue moving us forward in the 21st century economy. But today, college is not the starting point of STEM study. Our K-12 education pipeline is bringing the youth of today closer to STEM to better prepare them to master it in college and career.
A hands-on introduction to STEM takes place every summer in Western New York through the Rochester Young Scholars Academy at Geneseo (RYSAG), a summer STEM camp that SUNY Geneseo conducts for rising 6-11th grade students from the Rochester City School District with an intensive 2-week residential program that let’s them put their knowledge to work. This year was the 10th year of this highly regarded program.
Last year, the camp focused on the science of food magic. This year, the focus for students was on Discovering the Iroquois: An Archeological Dig which focused on excavation work around the Geneseo campus. In addition to working with their hands and shovels, students were educated on and practiced identifying evidence, digital photo documenting, mapping, forensic sciences, and public speaking skills. A field trip to Letchworth State Park was also included, which itself is quite an archaeologically rich location. The camp concluded on July 22 in which a closing presentation ceremony was held to showcase the work and experience gained by participating students.
During this year’s work, one of the student dig teams discovered the base of a projectile point (dart head) on the Geneseo campus from the Brewerton Age, which is believed to be 3,000-6,000 years old. For a first run through archaeology by these students, that is quite an accomplishment.
“We have had this archaeology theme twice at previous camps and we found it is very successful,” said Susan Norman, camp director and director of Geneseo’s Xerox Center for Multicultural Teacher Education. “The students in the past have actually unearthed projectile points believed to be thousands of years old from a prehistoric camp. Experiences like that make science real for these students and peaks their interest in the STEM fields.”
Students and faculty from SUNY Geneseo are also involved in this program, gaining new knowledge and experience from the participating students and hands on work. And after the field work is done, the RYSAG program continues during the school year through a Saturday school program at the Rochester Public Library, where those Geneseo faculty and students do academic follow-up with the students involved in the summer camp to continue developing everyone’s critical thinking skills.
Funding this year for the camps is being provided by the Xerox Foundation, SUNY Geneseo, the Rochester City School District and the Greater Rochester Summer Learning Association.
Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.