Lange students camp out to learn science

SCHOOLS: LANGE MIDDLE

By CAMILLE PHILLIPS

neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

It was the first time some of the 58 girls had spent the night away from home. It was also the first time some of them had talked to each other or spent time with their teachers outside school hours. And it was the first time Lange Middle School and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources put on an overnight science camp.

On April 20, the girls from the Allies team of seventh-graders traveled about 80 miles with their science teacher, Rob Bruns, several other teachers and assistant principal Connie Dewey to Mark Twain State Park. They spent three days and two nights learning about conservation, recycling and water quality from DNR employees and sleeping in cabins at Mark Twain.

“Being with teachers in a different setting is always nice to see. We get to see a different side of them (the students), and they get to see a different side of us,” Bruns said.

One way camp was different than school was that teachers dressed more casually and the girls couldn’t bring flat irons, Bruns said, noting that the students got to see him in camo cargo pants and several of the female teachers without makeup.

Bruns said that in addition to learning science, the students had a chance to grow socially. He let the girls pick one friend to be in the cabin with them and then he assigned the other 14 students in the cabin. A female teacher or administrator stayed in a separate room placed between two cabins.

Bruns said that several girls were uneasy about the assignments at first but soon adapted. He said that by the end of camp they were asking when they could go back, despite the chilly weather.

“They might have been complaining about how cold and windy it was, but they still wanted to go back and stay longer,” Bruns said.

The science camp is the result of a year of planning between Lange, Columbia Public Schools and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Lange was selected to be the pilot in a program the department hopes to expand throughout the state.

Planning for the camp began a year ago when Debbie Brunner, Education Coordinator for the department, met Mike Szydlowski, the science coordinator for Columbia Public Schools at a conference.

“My hope was to connect students to Missouri State Parks, and his hope was to have a camp experience for Columbia students. It meshed from them that point,” said Brunner.

As it is a pilot program, the Department of Natural Resources is funding the science camps. Department employees are scheduling the activities and teaching the lessons, but Lange teachers and an administrator will always be there as well, Bruns said.

Bruns said they told the students ahead of time that the same rules and consequences were in place at camp as at school to help minimize behavior problems. Having teachers there at all times and sending the girls separately from the boys also helped, he said.

Another side effect of taking the boys separately from the girls was that it showed the girls how much they were capable of on their own, Bruns said.

“I think that’s really important, especially in science and math,” Bruns said. “At this age, girls start backing away from that. … Most girls don’t care about the boys standing across from them, but some do.”

Because there were only girls there, they jumped in and did activities the boys normally would have done, like gather wood and lug rocks, Bruns said.

“It shows them that there isn’t a whole of lot of difference, Bruns said. “They can do everything the guys can do.”

On Tuesday, May 2, it will be the Allies boys’ turn for science camp.  Check the Missourian Neighborhood News blog next week to find out how their trip goes. The other two seventh-grade teams will take their turns camping after that, first the girls and then the boys.

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