By Alex Cash (Courtesy Photo)
When children run around the grounds of YMCA Storer Camps, playing game of tag, they aren’t just having fun and getting exercise-they are learning about ecological systems. To play the game of Predator Prey, players take on the roles of squirrel, skunk, wolf and more; just like animals found within a specific ecosystem. When players tag or prey on other animals to get them out, they can see just how a food chain works. Later, they discuss how small changes in the ecosystem can have major effects.
This is just one of the many activities that happen at YMCA Storer Camps in Napoleon where every year more than 13,000 students and teachers spend time in the great outdoors learning and having fun. The game of Predator Prey is an example of STEM-based outdoor education, which allows students to learn about science in a practical, hands-on way.
Recently, Storer received the opportunity to strengthen their STEM-based education by receiving a grant from the DTE Energy Foundation. The grant allowed the camp to create a new staff position; one that shows their dedication to staying in the forefront of STEM outdoor education.
Curt Reigelsperger, joined Storer as Director of Curriculum in August 2017. Originally from Dayton, Ohio, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering and later taught for Teach for America in Indianapolis. With his mixed background in engineering and teaching, he makes for a perfect fit to keep curriculum at Storer relevant and useful in student’s lives.
To make sure they are hitting their mark, Reigelsperger has formed an advisory board of science teachers and professors to meet and continuously discuss their curriculum and the impact that it is having on students’ education.
One unique educational resource that Storer has is their Net Zero Energy Experience classroom. The facility is a hand-on learning center focusing on the creation of energy, its many different sources, and conservation techniques. This facility can show students the impact of their energy use on the environment. Reigelsperger explains that as the students make their way through the progression of energy they end with discussing careers available in hopes to inspire a growing generation to think about a future in STEM related fields.
“There are a lot of jobs in America that have to do with STEM and outdoor education, that are just not being filled necessarily at this point in time,” said Reigelsperger. “We need to strengthen the education of the kids coming through here so they can see these as viable options.”
The camp has been dedicated to the project of using renewable energy for the past decade. The Net Zero Energy Experience classroom is fueled by geothermal technology and nearby is a biomass system that is fueled by downed trees from the camp’s property. With the help from the DTE Foundation they were able to take the project to the next level, adding a stronger educational component, by bringing in Reigelsperger. Storer is a living working example, of responsible energy use that every child can learn from that sets foot on their grounds.
Becky Spencer, Vice President of Camping at Storer said outdoor education is more important than ever. “Children are spending more time in front of their screens so learning how to interact with each other, live together, and eat together, in a natural environment is really critical for today’s children.”
Learn more about the numerous outdoor programs YMCA Storer Camps has to offer by visiting them online at ymcastorercamps.org or calling (517) 536-8607.
Alexandra Cash is a Jackson native with a passion for world travel, culture, lifetime learning, and adventure. Visit her website to read stories of her adventures at alexandracash.com or view her videos on YouTube at Alexandra Cash – Cash’s Corner.