Summer Camp Introduces Marion Youth to Civil Engineering

summer marion iowa camp youth

Like many of their peers, 26 Marion kids are spending part of their summer at camp.  However, unlike other camps, this camp involves no swimming, campfires or bug spray.  Instead, these youth are diving headfirst into the field of civil engineering!
The Summer Explorers camp is a two-week day camp from July 22nd -August 2nd for 4th-8th grade students in the Marion Independent School District.  The camp was started two years ago by Chad Zrudsky, Associate Principal at Marion High School.  Mr. Zrudsky was puzzled by the variety of sports and music-related summer activities offered to students, but the lack of options for kids interested in science and technology.  A science-enthusiast himself, Zrudsky took matters into his own hands and started the “Hot Fun in the Summertime” camp, now “Summer Explorers.” 
Each year, the camp explores a specific topic, the first two years being water and agricultural sciences.  This year’s topic is civil engineering, with a specific focus on bridges, and is led by Chad Zrudsky and Deb Menken, who teaches science at Vernon Middle School.  Camp participants engage in hands-on activities to explore bridge structure and design, learn about balance and forces, and build and test their own bridges.  To see bridges and bridge-building in action, participants have taken field trips to the Indian Creek Nature Center, the 8th Avenue and 29th Avenue bridges in Marion, and Hall and Hall Engineering in Hiawatha.  Finally, the camp also integrates literacy education through journaling activities and a book fair that includes a variety of fiction and non-fiction selections.
"This has been such a rewarding program for all involved,” says Zrudsky.  “The students have such great questions and have really benefitted from their experiences.  It is fun interacting with them while they problem-solve and learn."
This year’s camp was made possible through a new partnership between the Marion Independent School District and Iowa State University Extension & Outreach – Linn County.   Funding was provided by the Giacoletto Foundation, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, Marion Independent School Foundation & Alumni Association, Dr. Richard Wolken D.D.S, and Pediatric Dentistry P.C.
For more information about this camp as well as other hands-on learning programs for youth contact Ann Torbert, ISU Extension & Outreach – Linn County, or (319)377-9839.

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