Clarkson’s Beacon campus in July hosted 35 middle school students from Hudson Valley middle schools for TEAM Survival Science, a 3-week hands-on STEM and environmental learning program. Students engaged in everything from catching and identifying fish to building and piloting small drones, all while immersed in study of the ecosystem of the surrounding Denning’s Point State Park.
“We were as eager as our students to come together for a team-based summer STEM program,” said Asher Pacht, Director of Environmental Programs at Clarkson’s Beacon Institute. Two Clarkson undergraduate summer interns, Evelyn LaFerriere and Ethan LaFerriere, as well as a Conservation Intern from the Student Conservation Association, Trevor Jones, helped to lead the program.
TEAM’s in-person summer enrichment format challenged students to activate skills that have been largely unused over the past year. Through heat waves and thunderstorms, students worked through challenges together to discover their local environment, build new STEM skills, and develop their own strengths and strategies to survive and thrive.
“After this challenging past year, we are taking a holistic approach addressing student learning simultaneously with their social and emotional needs. We employ this when writing the program curriculum, and in making and adapting our daily schedule, ” said Brigette Walsh, Assistant Director of Environmental Programs. “We made a concerted effort to engage a range of additional workshop leaders who reflect the diversity of backgrounds and interests of our TEAM students,” Walsh said.
Activities like water quality testing, seining and fish identification, marine plastic clean-up and data collection gave students a wide variety of opportunities to experience environmental field science practices. Simultaneously, numerous adjunct educators led enriching personal development programs ranging from QiGong and Yoga to reflective writing and sensory awareness.
Student enrollment fees were sponsored by Newburgh Enlarged City School District (NECSD) and Beacon City School District (BCSD), so there was no cost to students or families to participate. Both districts also provided breakfast and lunch for every one of their students each day of the program. The TEAM staff included 2 classroom teachers and a nurse paid by NECSD.
On day one, the TEAM program staff laid out mutual expectations for all participants, based on the Lenape 7 principles of respect, traditional to the native nation who were the original human inhabitants of the land at Denning’s Point. The principles were presented to campers and instructors alike, as a framework for how to honor and sustain each other and the earth through the traditions of the native Lenape people. The principles helped guide TEAM participants to create community and an environment of openness and trust as they engaged in team-building and wilderness survival activities.
Challenging students to work in teams motivated them to work together, develop strengths and address and reflect on any weakness that arose. TEAM utilizes all these methods to empower students, spark passion and sustain interest in STEM and environmental science learning and careers.