Gear-Up facilitators at five Killeen Independent School District middle schools joined up with the Girl Scouts for summer science and more to challenge a group of incoming freshmen.

During a four-day STEM camp, 60 students preparing to start ninth grade gathered at Nolan Middle School for a six-hour camp with activities about technology, engineering, water and the environment.

The camp ended June 20 with a field trip to Waco to tour Baylor University and Texas State Technical College.

Gear-Up is a federal grant that provides tutoring, college visits, summer programs and other services to a cohort of students from seventh through 12th grade. The students are set to graduate in 2017 and 2018.

In Killeen ISD they attended Manor, Smith, Audie Murphy, Palo Alto and Nolan middle schools and are set to start at Killeen, Ellison and Shoemaker high schools.

The four days of summer camp included transportation to Nolan and 12 STEM-related activities the Girl Scouts provided.

“The focus was on math and science because we wanted to provide opportunities to get them to their goal of college and a post secondary plan,” said Angie Wilkerson, Gear-Up facilitator at Nolan and Palo Alto.

On June 18, the day dedicated to engineering, students made bridges of toothpicks and marshmallows, constructed windmills, built catapults and did a packaging challenge.

“It’s interesting. I’ve had a lot of fun,” said Mattie Loftin, set to start ninth grade at Killeen High School. She said she was intrigued by a water-filtering activity.

“Everything was interesting,” said Quanshai Burkley. “My favorite was a wind turbine that picked up paperclips.”

The activities centered on aspects of math, science and technology made from common household items and the time span was intentionally limited to urge students to continue the process at home.

“We encourage them to go home and find material or similar material and finish,” said Girl Scouts program specialist Danielle Rodgers. “Family involvement is great.

“We want them to think critically,” she said. “We ask them what would you like to do if you had all the material you need. We want them to start thinking about careers.”

Incoming Killeen High School sophomore Loveless Gatewood described himself as a “kinesthetic learner,” explaining that he prefers to build a catapult than “just do writing.”

Angel Boucher of Audie Murphy Middle School was one of four Killeen ISD teachers to conduct the activities for the camp.

“For them, it’s bringing out their creativity,” she said. “They are getting some different options they wouldn’t normally think about.”

She said during the water-filtering exercise, students didn’t want to drink the water, but were impressed how coffee filters and similar materials clarified the liquid. “They said ‘I didn’t know you could do that,’” the teacher said. “It’s new exposures for them.”

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