The excitement grows as we are only a few days away from the start of the fall semester and a new academic year. Waves of hope flow across campus as we prepare to initiate welcoming activities like a long-awaited family reunion.
We are ready. After many very successful summer camps and conferences, we are returning with a restored self-confidence.
Sporty summer camps brought joy and hard work to almost 1,300 young people who wanted to develop their skills in soccer, women’s soccer, wrestling, volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball.
For those looking for a slightly more cerebral experience, our fabulous and exciting Science and Mathematics Educational Institute (SEMI) held summer camps for grades 2-8. A variety of camp options enabled these teenagers to build, program and test LEGO robots using LEGO EV3 software. expand their technical knowledge by building a rope hoist, a bridge, a raft and a sturdy house; Find new friends through team projects and experiments with a focus on engineering, nanotechnology and rockets, and design, build and operate your own shop. We have had about 100 children involved in these wonderful programs.
In June, these SEMI camps were supplemented by a three-day Summer Community Welcome Back to Campus event, in which more than 200 people took part. Activities included making bubbles and oobleck (a substance that mimics the properties of a liquid and a solid). It takes its name from the book by Dr. Seuss Bartholomäus and the Oobleck.) Participants also learned about density, electromagnetism and little bits.
The main question I received from community members this past spring was, “When will the Beach / Schmidt Performing Arts Center return to its original purpose of performing arts?” To maintain safety standards during COVID last year, we have special events canceled and the center converted into a classroom.
This summer the performing arts made a triumphant return to the center. In addition to several dance evenings, the return of the High Plains Music Camp this summer brought a lot of smiles and the certainty that we will be “all in” when repopulating our campus.
Speaking of High Plains Music Camp (HPMC), this great annual event returned to campus in July. More than 130 student musicians came to the camp. Campers came from all over Kansas (Kansas City to Goodland, Pittsburg to Garden City and more) as well as Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah.
HPMC campers are student musicians who travel to campus and train with professional musicians for a week. The camper’s experience culminates in a performance that he delivers at the end of the camp. Aspiring sixth and eighth graders were offered a middle school band experience with the Tiger Band, directed by Johannah Cox of Lawrence, Kansas. Mrs. Cox said the group this summer was one of the best Tiger bands we’ve played in years. This feeling was expressed again and again this summer in descriptions of the other HPMC ensembles and classes.
The HPMC faculty consisted of 46 music professionals and individual instrument teachers from across the state of Kansas (including professional jazz musicians in Kansas City) as well as Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, and Utah. The camp faculty was assisted by 16 advisors; Camp librarians who helped prepare the music before and during the camp; an equipment team moving stands, chairs, and drums before, during, and after camp; and four interns who helped the camp manager to keep everything running smoothly during the week.
For many campers, this was their first opportunity to be on a college campus. In addition to the close cooperation with the excellent lecturers and employees of the HPMC, the campers enjoyed exploring the FHSU campus during the week. Stops at Starbucks in the Memorial Union were a highlight for many.
In addition to the summer activities I just discussed, our fabulous Kansas Wetlands Education Center in Barton County hosted drop-in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities that were a great opportunity for people to pass through a water to go trailer. This is a mobile trailer that offers a wealth of information and experiential learning opportunities for the curious, including rainwater problems in water catchment areas. Other activities included making and then consuming an aquifer, discovering how much usable water there is on our planet, and developing drone pilot skills while learning about the use of drones in water quality management and protection. I particularly enjoyed the book presentation for “Ava: A Year of Adventure in the Life of an American Avocet”. An avocet is a bird that is found in wetlands.
I was thrilled that our Sternberg Museum of Natural History was also able to bring some of its summer camps back to personal experiences, including the Colorado Dinosaur Experience and Field Paleontology: Kansas Camps. Last year I received the cutest letter from a mom and dad on a summer camper, part of which read: “My family cannot say enough good things about the camps and director David Levering. I first found Sternberg and Fort Hays State University through a Facebook paleontology group when I was looking for a residential camp for my 12 year old daughter. When we lived in rural northern Wisconsin, we knew our daughter had to travel to receive a quality paleontology education. The camp exceeded all expectations – she learned so much. Our daughter even started her own business to keep paying for future camps … The growth and trust we see in her is incredible. “
This letter meant so much to me. It demonstrated our educational reach and commitment to delivering high quality and engaging educational experiences. We train young, traditionally older and adult learners. We make dreams come true, and for the 12-year-old in the letter above, we even sparked her entrepreneurial spirit. We exist to make life better.
Our summer camps and conferences serve as an extension of our educational mission. That year they also helped create a sense of normalcy and, in a sense, served as a “dress rehearsal” for a full return to all campus activity. We’re excitedly ready and “all in” for fall 2021. Welcome home, Tigers.