Annex School holds second annual STEAM camp

You might say that Vincent Voigt’s intellectual cup runneth over.
 For the bright 11-year-old from Annex, Ore., life is brimming with opportunity. He has so many goals and ideas, his naturally inquisitive mind is barely able to contain them all.
 So, the summer STEAM Camp was right where he needed to be. 
 In its second year, the camp, held June 6 through 30 at Annex Charter School, culminated in an open house held on June 30, an event meant to give parents the opportunity to see first-hand the fruit of their children’s labor over the previous four weeks.
 Clearly, the camp unlocked in Voigt inspiration that was welling up inside him.
 “There are a lot of things I want to be,” Voigt excitedly expressed during the open house. “I might be an engineer, a scientist, an inventor, an artist. There are a lot of things that I just want to be.”
 The hands-on summer enrichment program offered about 40 Annex students just like Voight the opportunity to experience how Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics are gracefully interwoven into a combined discipline aimed to see how the world around us works and how to use that knowledge to create.
 “Students were grouped together by age, and they go from station to station for about an hour at a time, working on projects,” said Annex Charter Summer School Principal, Joe Burris. “Some of the projects last a week, others were shorter. They focused on science experiments as well as engineering and art projects, so we integrated them all.”
 The summer camp is an opportunity that not all school districts are able to provide.
 “This week, we were doing backgrounds and making clay animals, or monsters,” Voigt articulately explained. “I made a hybrid of a goat and a deer. It’s got a sharp horn like a goat and the rest is, basically, a deer. It was fun and I hope to come back and do it again.”
 The camp goes beyond the classroom, students taking what they learn and applying it.
 Voigt’s creation was the product of an interdisciplinary platform brought to the camp by Artist-In-Residence, Jennifer Hernandez, whose “Monster Maker” program tasked kids with conducting research, observing, sketching, and then building. The program lasted four days.
 “With Monster Makers, the students first create their own sketch books,” explained Hernandez, who lives in Corvallis, Ore. “We took them outside and looked at the environment and tried to sketch some things that we saw, thinking about breaking images down into shapes, thinking about flowers and thinking about circles and triangles and putting those together, and using a little bit of a reverse engineering mind to think, ‘What does this look like and how do we break it down into different components to represent it?’”
 The students then conducted research on laptops, learning about different ecologies and how various animals have adapted to their surroundings. Based on their findings, they created their own creatures, molding clay representations of the images they formed in their minds.
 In the end, their unique, clay-fired creations went on display at Thursday’s Open House, where parents were invited to see and hear about the camp’s projects.
 Hernandez, who has been an educator for 18 years, has an impressive resume and was brought to the camp by Annex School through Art Center East, a nonprofit, member-based arts services organization headquartered in La Grande, Ore. It provides regional arts education for students K-8 and teachers across eastern Oregon through its Artists in Rural Schools program.
 “We pursued getting an artist to come in and it’s been a great experience having Jen here,” said Annex Title Reading Program teacher, Kim Voile.
 But Hernandez was, of course, not the only teacher involved. Annex School has some bright educators of its own, according to Annex School District Superintendent Steve Bishop.
 “We have a terrific staff of teachers who are dedicated to helping students learn and grow,” he said. “Without them, their professionalism, commitment, and enthusiasm, we wouldn’t be able to provide our students with the level of education they receive, much less put on our camp.”
 The camp was funded by two sources, Oregon’s Student Investment Act and monies awarded through grants set aside by the state legislature to help offset instruction time lost during COVID.
 “It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done,” Bishop said. “Last year was our first year and we had such a positive response, we determined that we were going to keep it going. It’s a great opportunity. One of the parents told me, ‘You’re tricking them into learning by doing all of these fun activities.’ I said, ‘You’re right.’ The kids have so much fun. We get into the meat of science and technology and art behind these projects, and I think that’s just really cool.”


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