Military kids connect with other kids, learn about science at spring break camp

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Blair Heusdens
  • Florida National Guard Public Affairs
Approximately 25 military youth from North Florida recently had the opportunity to participate in a Spring Break Science Camp at the 125th Fighter Wing, hosted by Operation Military Kids and STARBASE Florida.
Operation Military Kids reaches out to military youth throughout the deployment process to connect them to local resources and create bonds with other military children. The spring break camp was an opportunity for military kids to meet with other military kids, to share their experiences and to learn something in the process.
"We focus on the social, emotional, recreational support for military kids who might be in the deployment cycle," said December James, a Youth Program Specialist with Operation Military Kids.
STARBASE is a Department of Defense program that reaches out to youth to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Co-located with the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, the program works to mentor Duval County 5th graders in science and math. Holding the military camp at STARBASE provides the youth with an educational experience in addition to normal recreational camp activities.
"We look for the community partners or agencies that are already doing it and we connect the military to them," said James. "So even though STARBASE does a lot with the schools, any chance we get, we try to invite our military kids out here."
Throughout the four-day camp, James spoke with the children about their experiences in a military family and the challenges they face while their parent is deployed.
"They get to speak about the proud moments of being in a military house," said James. "It's our way of telling them that they do serve because they are part of a military family."
During the camp, the kids had the opportunity to utilize flight simulators at STARBASE where they could choose to fly a variety of military aircraft and learn what it's like to take off and land. One child found his father's Navy helicopter and used the simulator to fly off of aircraft carriers near Afghanistan where his father is stationed.
"We bring military kids together from all over and have them interact with other military kids," said James. "Part of this is recreational, but part of it is educational."
The kids learned about Newton's Law, gravity force and motion and the different types of air pressure. They built rockets and launched them and had the opportunity to see aircraft close up on the flight line of the 125th Fighter Wing.
Behind the fun of flight simulation and science experiments is a lot of well-disguised math. Greg Stritch, the STARBASE Florida director, describes the calculations required to coordinate a flight, "They have to do wind corrections and they don't realize that it's trigonometry - they don't realize some of it is differential calculus - and we don't tell them. If we call it math, it's kind of scary to them."
Stritch has plenty of experience in motivating children to learn about math and science. Throughout the school year, STARBASE targets 5th graders from the lowest performing Title 1 schools in the Jacksonville area. The program also works to mentor the students throughout middle school and, by working with the Civil Air Patrol, allows them fly real airplanes with instructors at the age of 12.
"Our kids are intuitive and if it has to do with technology and aerospace, they're excited about it," said Stritch.
Maintaining this excitement for learning in children is an important part of shaping the future of our nation through education.
"For the kids that we're targeting, the only hope that they have of escaping real systemic poverty is education," said Stritch.
Operation Military Kids will offer several camps throughout Florida for children from all branches of the military this summer. Click on the link below for more details.