With a sudden and powerful whoosh, the craft took flight.
Mosiah Sanchez’s gaze shot upward, his eyes transfixed on its soaring path. As the rocket — a 2-liter soda bottle adorned with the cardboard wings and fins — came crashing down, the 13-year-old took off running after it.
“That was the best one so far,” someone shouted.
The smile on Josiah’s face said it all. He was excited, he was engaged, he was learning.
And that’s what Albright College’s Science Research Institute’s summer program is all about.
Over the past five weeks, 250 students in grades five through 12 from around Berks and surrounding counties got a chance to visit Albright’s north Reading campus to take part in hands-on, student-led learning.
The summer camp featured a total of 547 sessions on topics ranging from fashion to robotics to performing arts to computer programming.
The session were led by about 100 camp instructors, made up of a mix of teachers from local school districts, Albright professors and local experts.
The sessions used a method called “total experience learning,” where lessons follow where students’ interests lead them. And for the Science Research Institute, that idea doesn’t end with summer camp.
Adelle Schade, director of the institute, told parents and community members gathered at Albright on Thursday for the summer camp’s open house that the hope is to have the total experience learning spread and fundamentally change how kids learn.
“Our vision, here at Albright, is to change every student, every teacher, every classroom, every school,” she said. “We want to change Berks County, we want to change Pennsylvania. And then we want to change the U.S.”
Schade said Albright and the Science Research Institute are leading a revolution for education to become less about memorizing facts and more about exploration, investigation and innovation. She said she wants education to be immersive for students, and for kids to learn from an early age to embrace their interests and become agents of change.
“We want to bring every student’s creativeness into the classroom and into the world,” Dr. Jacquelyn Fetrow, Albright president, said, calling Albright the center of the innovation corridor in Reading.
The institute has been working with local school districts to make that happen, providing training courses for teachers and administrators. Several of the teachers who have gone through the training served as instructors at the summer camp.
As a result, the summer camp provided a good example of what total experience learning is all about, Schade said.
And the kids who got a chance to take part were thrilled.
“It’s really good,” Mosiah said as he filled his bottle rocket with water moments before it was set to launch.
Mosiah, a student in the Reading School District, said he enjoyed sessions this summer on origami and environmental science.
“I liked being able to experiment with nature,” he said, adding that one of his favorite things was building and racing a boat made out of things found in nature.
David Donofrio, a 14-year-old who goes to Wilson School District, said he appreciated how many different topics he had to choose from.
“You can try different things and see what you like,” he said.
He spent time this summer learning about computer coding, esports and upcycling old furniture.
“It was really cool. I like it,” he said.
For Alyssa Wloczewski, a 15-year-old from the Gov. Mifflin School District, summer camp was all about finding a path to follow in the future.
“They give you a lot of experiences and it kind of helped me figure out what I want to do,” she said.
For her, that means pursuing a career in pediatric oncology. And this summer she got a chance to take a session with a doctor from Reading Hospital.
She also painted furniture, did experiments with food and made bottle rockets, among other things.
“It’s fun,” she said. “It gives you a chance to get out and do things and to meet new friends.”
Source: Berkshire mont