Partner Highlight: The Leonardo Conducts Team-Based Inquiry on their All-Girls Nano-Themed Summer Camp!

Brooke McNaughton, The Leonardo

If you want to do something big, you’ve got to think small! Yes, you read that right—we’re talking atomic level tiny. Female scientists and engineers lead this all-girls camp into the amazing world of nanoscience using art, technology, and even games. Campers also developed their own activity to share with their friends and family at home. STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) is what we are all about here at The Leonardo!

We sought to understand what activities best supported participant engagement in this five-day summer camp, which was built for 9-12 year old girls. We wanted to know which nano activities presented during this camp were most engaging for the group so we knew which activities we would use for future programming. To figure this out we applied the Team-Based Inquiry approach and we collected data using observations, surveys, participant rankings, and a review of their week-end activity. The methods were built into the program so as to not detract from the camp experience. Each day the girls in Girls Full STEAM Ahead would gain exposure to three or four different NanoDays kits, of which they and a partner would choose one to teach to participants in a younger aged camp taking place at the same time. At the end of the week, the girls were asked to develop their own nano-themed game for their culminating take-home activity. The last day was largely spent working on this project, which also served toward the purpose of observation when the girls taught their game to the younger campers.

We found that Gummy Capsules and Buckyballs were popular activities for both the 5-8 year olds and the 9-12 year olds; however, there was less noted enthusiasm towards Thermal Conductivity, Nano Fabrics, and the Powers of Ten card game. We noticed that the most popular activities all encompassed an aspect of messiness, unpredictability, and ownership! So what now? We intend on hosting future all-girls camps as well as other nano-themed community events. We have coded all nano activities with appropriate age ranges, and continue to use the activities that are highly ranked. We also intend to develop a Team-Based Inquiry study to improve the lesser-ranked activities based on the findings and components attributed to the higher-ranked activities.

To learn more about The Leonardo's all-girls nano-themed summer camp, contact Brooke McNaughton at BMcNaughton@theleonardo.org, or contact Tim Hecox from Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and the NISE Net West Regional Hub Leader.