Train Tracks – A Quarterly Column about STEAM Learning and Train Education by Anthony D. Fredericks
Summer Camp – 2021
The enthusiasm was electric, the activities were bold and inventive, and the youngsters’ energy was undeniable. Was this a classroom out of control? An elementary school in chaos? A teacher on the verge? No! It was NCRs 2021 summer camp experience – an adventure into a wide range of “hands-on, minds-on” learning experiences that engaged young students in myriad S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) activities along with the mysteries and magic of trains.
For two weeks (July 19 – July 23; July 26 – July 30) this past summer, approximately two dozen youngsters – some from as far away as West Virginia and Annapolis, Maryland – participated in NCR’s first summer camp. From 9:00am to Noon each day, kids were engaged in amazing discoveries, inventive experiments, and dynamic learning opportunities that “boldly went where no child has gone before.”
Here are just a few of those experiences:
- Using cardboard tubes and waxed paper, participants created their own unique train whistles.
- With dowels, small boxes, and balloons kids built self-propelled train cars that zipped across tabletops.
- With a plethora of bright blue pool noodles, youngsters crafted multi-functional train tracks that covered a wide expense of one of New Freedom’s city parks.
- Kids listened to a train engineer and his job responsibilities, interviewed a conductor, and peppered a railroad fireman with questions about his duties.
- Kids were each invited to assume the role of a train engineer – sitting inside the cab of No. 17and operating the bell with both energy and passion.
- Participants used graham crackers, vanilla wafers, and M&Ms to create a distinctive “food collage” – an artistic rendering of a steam engine in motion.
- Kids ran along a measured distance to see if they were faster than a NCR train (10 MPH) on one of its regular excursions. (NOTE: I think we have some future Olympic champions in the making!)
- As a culminating activity, students traveled with their families on a specially-chartered train trip to Seitzville and back.
The design of the summer camp offered youngsters a wide variety of train-related activities that would help them learn more about this unique form of transportation, its history, and some of the science behind how trains work. The activities were designed to be interactive, participatory, dynamic, and fun! Most importantly, each week was an adventure of both mind and body – a collection of not-to-be-forgotten activities that opened their eyes and expanded their horizons.
Here are some relevant evaluations directly from students and parents:
What was your favorite part of the camp?
- “Running the model train.”
- “Making the train track with pool noodles.”
- “Taking the train ride.”
- “We truly appreciated the care and effort you all showed throughout the week.”
- “I am 100% satisfied with this camp. It was an amazing experience for my Jr. Engineer and it was educational. I hope you have the camp again next year.”
What was your least favorite part of the camp?
- “His one complaint was that it was only one week.”
- “Leaving to come home at the end of the day.”
- “Nothing! The entire week was great!”
We are already in the planning stages for Summer Camp 2022. We hope to offer separate experiences for younger campers (Grades 1-3) as well as older campers (Grades 4-6). Watch for more details in the coming months. And…be prepared for a new round of exciting learning adventures!
Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D. (www.anthonydfredericks.com) is Professor Emeritus of Education at York College of PA and the Education Consultant for NCR. In addition, he is an award-winning and best-selling children’s author of more than 50 children’s books including NCR’s “All Aboard” Starts with A (https://amzn.to/3yflVso) [“This delightful ABC book about trains is chock-full of facts and information that will appeal to train lovers of all ages.” 5-star review.]