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Genealogy Summer Camp to Get Kids Interested in STEM

Genealogy Summer Program to Get Kids Interested in STEM  Find more genealogy blogs at FamilyTree.comGenealogy has been always been connected to family history. In recent years, genealogy has been entwined with genetics. Could genealogy get kids motivated to one day work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers? Henry Louis Gates Jr. wants to find out.

Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. (who hosts the “Finding Your Roots” TV show) had an idea. He wanted to create a summer camp for kids that explores the question: “Who am I?” It is a question that many genealogists ponder as they go digging into their family history.

It is more than just an idea, though. The project has been awarded a grant in the amount of $343,752 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The camp will become a reality in the summer of 2015. It is a two week camp that focuses on genealogy and genetics, and it will launch at Penn State University and the University of South Carolina.

This summer camp is for middle-school students, who are at-risk minority youths ages 12 – 15. The purpose of the camp is to promote an interest in STEM fields and to improve health. Part of the description of the camp is:

This project will develop and pilot-test a genetics and genealogy summer camp program for middle-school-age youths that is aimed at building a diverse and broad-based science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce and a Culture of Health in the United States

The curriculum for the camp is going to include genealogical discovery, a personalized genetic ancestry test, and information on recent human evolution and adaptations. It is hoped that the experience will nurture interest in STEM fields among African-American and Latino middle-school aged youths.

One of the “deliverables” of this project includes translating the summer camp teaching materials into free online materials. This would allow teachers, and genealogy societies, to use the teaching materials to reach even more students than the camp was able to offer the learning experience to. It may result in a similar genealogy summer camp popping up near you in the future.

How does genealogy connect to STEM? Both use similar research processes. The students at the summer camp will start with a question. “Who am I?” They will be taught how to explore that answer in the way that a scientist would. It appears that the process will involve doing research, and gathering genetic data, in order to answer the question.

Part of the point of the camp appears to be to teach kids to do research, and use problem solving, in order to discover something they wanted to know more about. It is about teaching them how to think (and not what to think). The thinking process involved in genealogy is useful in STEM fields.

Image by David Fulmer on Flickr.

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