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Camp and Club Science Sourcebook: Activities and Leader Planning Guide for Science Outside School

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Review Synopsis: by afterschool program expert Shawonda Swain

The Camp and Club Science Resourcebook is an excellent tool for leaders or instructors of after school programs. It is well conceived and has a flow that would make sense to an instructor who may not be familiar with science, but who is accustomed to the informal or afterschool education field. Although I am not a science teacher I felt very comfortable with this book and felt confident that I could implement the activities it describes with kids in the afterschool programs I oversee. I particularly like the way the topics are presented in a format that offers a running theme. Each of the activities has simple and easy to follow directions and the concepts addressed are thoughtful and relevant.

I think the activity worksheets provided would be useful and provide a tangible guide to effective basic questions that instructors could discuss with program participants. I could see an after school program using and enjoying the activities and experiments presented in the book. Using the materials provided in this book, after school directors could easily lead a basic planning meeting to help part-time instructional staff plan and implement the activities from this book.

As an after school director I would use and recommend this book for programs and leaders looking into incorporating an informal science component into their program’s activities. The activities provided and guidelines for offering science seem well suited to programs that serve a large number of kids, like mine and the presentation in this book makes the activities seem both useful and fairly easy to use for kids across a large age/grade range, like what I find walking through the door in the programs I oversee.
Full Review:
The Camp and Club Science Resourcebook was extremely easy to read. I found the format and entries provided to be thoughtful and useful. The information it provides, on so many aspects of creating an informal science activity, from planning to implementation, was just what an informal program leader needs if he or she is the least bit weary of offering experimentation in science as part of an informal program. The authors really took the time to think of all the nuts and bolts of what goes into bringing a concept to fruition. The sections of the book, such as Planning an Event, Reproducibles and Leader Resources were informative and offered a wealth of material to use. It seemed like one could literally begin with almost no experience with science and, after reading through the materials presented, be prepared to use the materials presented with children in an informal science activity.

The book had a strong focus on kids doing hands on science, and provided information and examples of these rather than emphasizing the theoretical or background information. The authors kept in mind that typically providers of informal science work with little prep time, tight schedules and a limited budget. For instance, supplies needed for experiments were for the most part very basic and easily obtainable. While the book mentioned that the activities are geared toward middle school students, I could easily see this book being used with younger and older students as well. Throughout the book, the authors stay on point and the topics of activities they recommend seem sure to keep students engaged. For instance, the sample activities address science topics we deal with daily in our lives, like diseases and how we work to control their spread (focusing on hand washing), water, and healthy skin. These topics are of interest to both youth participants and instructors (and parents). Commonplace topics, like those noted here, give staff members the sense that they can share their experience, even if they lack formal training in science, and that increases their comfort level to serve as leaders, reducing their anxieties about working with their program participants. I think the materials also lend themselves to independent and group study. Staff can set up experiments that challenge and encourage youth to work at their own pace. This gives them an opportunity to monitor the participation and learning of each participant. The "camp resource" orientation also lends itself to independent study and may help staff see the importance of giving the kids opportunities to develop their own hypothesis and encourages them to seek answers to their own questions–a key element of the inquiry approach to science.

The book is well developed and really lends itself to a variety of venues (i.e. schools, and after school programs or camps). The activities can be used together in series as an ongoing thematic unit or individually as an on the spot science experience. This flexibility makes this resource valuable for informal science aspirants because the needs of the after school space can be so spontaneous, but also call for some continuity. Thus having both short term and longer term suggested activities is perfect. I think this guide is especially useful for those making an initial foray into providing afterschool science activities that might later translate into a regular part of an afterschool program.

If an after school provider is seeking an easy to implement, cost effective, and very flexible set of science materials, and a low pressure guide to how to use them with kids in an informal setting (such as afterschool programs), I highly recommend this book. It has all the components of a great tool for the afterschool world and, more importantly, the kind of experiences depicted will engage young learners and give them a sense of confidence in their ability to contribute to the process of conducting investigations that will provide them with the chance to learn about science and to enjoy the process.