Local Youth Participate in EAC’s STEM Summer Camp in Tonto Creek


EAC Photo: EAC STEM Summer Camp participants gather at Tonto Natural Bridge.

By Phil McBride/EAC

TONTO CREEK – Eastern Arizona College, with funding from the Rural Activation and Innovation Network through the National Science Foundation and United Way, has partnered with the Eastern Arizona Science Initiative to host the seventh annual STEM camp at Tonto Creek. Forty-six excited seventh – 10e graders from the communities of Bylas, Duncan, Mesa, Safford, Thatcher, Pima, Fort Thomas and Queen Creek left Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park on Tuesday, May 31, for a four-day, three-night adventure.

Arriving at Camp Tonto Creek, the students were divided into four groups. During the week, each group rotated through eight daytime and four evening activities. In a lesson called Ecology of Streams and Ponds taught by Ethan McBride, students took water samples from a pond, stream and spring. They tested pH, temperature, turbidity and conductivity. Students learned the basics of archery from Paul Anger with an emphasis on safety and self-discipline. They learned about confidence, commitment, perseverance and teamwork in a bass ropes class taught by Lewis Booth. Participants learned the characteristics of crayfish by catching and releasing these incredibly diverse creatures. Tawnie Anger led participants through the STEAM machine, where they designed and built their own designed contraptions with at least three transitions culminating in the bursting of a balloon.

EAC Photo: Ethan McBride teaches ecology to campers during EAC’s STEM summer camp in Tonto Creek.

One of the highlights of the week was a short hike up Tonto Creek for swimming and foam wars initiated by Paul Anger. A Knockerball tournament hosted by Lewis Booth featured campers competing for the privilege of facing defending champion Ethan McBride. Aiden Ybarra, Men’s Champion, and Lila Millar, Women’s Champion, attempted to defeat Ethan in a joint effort, but were unsuccessful. Ethan retained his crown.

Each evening, participants participated in four STEM activities, including astronomy taught by Paul Anger, ice cream chemistry taught by Becky Booth, aluminum boats taught by Tawnie Anger, and water wars taught by Phil and Paula McBride.

Thursday afternoon was dedicated to what is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world, the Tonto Natural Bridge, which is 183ft high over a 400ft long tunnel that is 150ft at its widest point. The kids enjoyed an afternoon hike to the bottom of the natural bridge and spent time cooling off in the water pools.

On the last evening, all the campers came together for skits, music and cheers. Campers were recognized for their accomplishments Friday morning after breakfast. Aiden Ybarra was the men’s Knockerball champion and Lila Millar was the women’s champion. Mackenzie Millar won the archery competition with a score of 14 with three arrows. Aiden Ybarra was the men’s archery champion. Max Taylor, Camden Bryce and Cort Konrath had the most creative and functional STEAM machine. Hope Perez, Kimber Taylor, Ada Green and Caddy Bigler were the most effective at throwing and catching foam balls propelled out of a volumetric flask thanks to the chemical reaction created by water and Alka Seltzer ingredients.

Camp staff included Lewis and Becky Booth of Duncan, Ethan McBride of Safford, Phil and Paula McBride of Thatcher, Heather Dillman of Fort Thomas, and Paul and Tawnie Anger of Pima. These people taught most of the activities throughout the week. It was great to watch participants make new friends, overcome challenges and work as a team while learning about science, technology, engineering and math.

For more information about STEM education opportunities in your area, contact Phil McBride, Dean of Education at Eastern Arizona College (928-428-4804), or Paul Anger, Director of Eastern Arizona College Discovery Park (928 -428-6260).

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