Girl Scouts explored the outer reaches of the universe during a space camp held at Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI) in mid-June. The camp, sponsored by NASA, gave fourth and fifth grade girls the chance to learn about living and working in space while making new friendships and having a good amount of fun.
Girl Scouts from across West Michigan worked directly with VAEI’s instructors, using curriculum developed by NASA. During the four-day, three-hour a day camp, the young explorers delved into astronomy, physics, and technology using hands-on activities and experiments. Lisa Neeb, VAEI Instructional Specialist, was impressed with the Scouts’ enthusiasm for science and collaborative creativity.
“It’s great to see girls excited about science, and during the camp there is a real feeling of girl power, which as a science educator is something I am all about,” Neeb said. “The girls simulated what going to space would be like, built astronaut suits, modeled the solar system out of toilet paper, launched foam rockets, and created a meteor shower with space debris. The girls were ingenious.”
The Scouts also met and spoke with an engineer from NASA, and had the chance to meet scientists from Van Andel Research Institute. These interactions were incredibly important, because they helped illustrate for the girls that what they study now can lead to prestigious careers in science and engineering.
“Women are still underrepresented in science-focused careers, so I think it’s important to offer a camp where girls can feel empowered to explore their interests in science and technology,” Neeb said.
The camp was the first working partnership between VAEI, Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore and NASA, but Neeb hopes this is just the beginning.
“I think we will continue to look for more ways to collaborate with national science organizations, community groups, non-profits, museums and zoos in order to continue to provide diverse, creative learning experiences for our students.”
To learn more about VAEI’s science education programs for K-12th graders, visit vaei.vai.org.