Camas High students share love of STEM

New Youth Research Scholars Club meets weekly at Liberty Middle School

The Youth Research Scholars club, hosted by Camas High School students for Liberty Middle School students, discuss various science, technology, engineering and math concepts, such as the effect that the paper mill may have on the pH in water or how to solve large problems by breaking them down.

Three Camas High School sophomores are spreading their secondary school experiences and love for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to the middle school level with the creation of the Youth Research Scholars Club (YRS).

Camas High sophomores Junha Lee, Emma McBride and Hannah Tangen are a part of the high school’s magnet program and created YRS, a club currently carried out at Liberty Middle School, to expose younger students to research ideas, high school opportunities and the chance to pursue science studies at an earlier age.

The students developed the idea for the club when they noticed that only one Camas middle school, Odyssey, was represented at this year’s Washington State Science and Engineering Fair.

The students then decided to create the club to promote STEM involvement at Liberty and Skyridge middle schools.

Before the club was solidified, the group did background research and realized that elementary school students are required to do a science project of some sort, but that, in middle school, they’re only required to take the science courses.

“We really wanted to give students who enjoy science, math, technology and engineering an opportunity to develop their skills even further and take that into high school if they wanted to,” McBride said.

The club met for the first time on March 28 and now meets on Thursday afternoons.

“Our main focus was to not assign work … that’s going to actually put stress on them,” Tangen said of the club’s participants. “It’s supposed to be a welcoming environment, where they can pursue their interests.”

At a typical meeting, the club focuses on research aspects and bonding so that they can all connect and learn about collaborations.

At one recent meeting, the club members discussed how the Camas paper mill may affect the environment.

“Another (scenario) that kids really enjoyed was (when) we gave them an idea — like a big, drastic idea — to get their minds working in some ways to figure things out,” Tangen said.

The high school students once posed the question: If you had an unlimited amount of toothpicks, how many could fit into this room?

Tangen said the middle school students started with small concepts — How big is the toothpick? How big is the room? What’s the texture? — to find the bigger answer.

Liberty Middle School eighth-grader Hayden Newell said the instructors are really engaging and make the club more exciting.

The high school team meets once a week to discuss what the club will work on, McBride said. Many of the lessons are based on their own experiences with high school teachers.

The lesson planning takes a lot of collaboration, Tangen said.

“We teach (the middle school students) about collaboration, but we’re going through collaboration (too) by thinking of ideas on how we can incorporate education into what they enjoy,” Tangen said.

During the May 17 meeting, the club attracted three students, including Newell, who all had different science interests.

Claire McBride, a sixth-grader, said she likes to study plant sciences; Jackson Barnes, also in sixth grade, said the solar system and human body peak his interest; and Newell is interested in electronic sciences.

The turnout may be low, but the high school moderators aren’t discouraged. The teenagers understand that the YRS Club began at the middle school during the track season, and said they look forward to next year, when more students will be able to attend meetings.

Next year, the high school students hope to expand the club to Skyridge and work with students throughout the year to finalize research projects that they can present at the state science fair in 2019.

“It would be a great experience for them to present that research and be around people who love science as well,” McBride said of taking the younger students to the state fair.

The club meets at 3 p.m., every Thursday, in teacher Sarah Kankelberg’s room at Liberty Middle School.