PHOTO: Ellen Ferguson, one of three volunteers at the Explorit science camp, helps a student figure out how to connect a simple electrical circuit.
By Lewis Herring-Tillman,
As the reopening of Davis public schools draws nearer, the Davis Explorit Science Center has been hosting COVID-safe science camps in their backyard, bringing opportunities for in-person learning in an otherwise online town.
Sarah Thompson is the educator in charge of the group of elementary kids from grades K-6 and has been working with Explorit since 2012. “It’s been great being able to do these camps socially distanced, even if it’s not quite as much interaction as we had before,” Thompson said.
Explorit has been offering camps for kids since its founding in 1983. Along with camps, Explorit hosts local science events and has a strong presence in the Davis community.
The Explorit camps follow a strict set of guidelines: masking and distancing is mandatory and unless there is sudden rain or bad air quality, the camps always take place in the Explorit backyard or in the neighboring Mace Ranch park.
Before the pandemic, Explorit funds often came from appearances and demonstrations inside of elementary schools. After a time of complete lockdown, camps and memberships are the primary ways Explorit gets revenue.
“It’s definitely sad that we can’t go into schools anymore,” Thompson said. “Luckily we were able to maintain the students we already had, and keep doing these camps.”
Bob Tyzzer, a retired Explorit educator, welcomes students at the front of the building armed with an attendance clipboard and an infrared thermometer. “We have to be outside, and we’ve got limited numbers, but the feedback we’re getting from parents is good,” Tyzzer said.
Davis High Spanish teacher Tim Nelson sends his kid to Explorit camps.
“I noticed, even the first day of this week, the excitement,” Nelson said. “Just the change, you know, the change in his brain, after staying at home all the time. It’s really exciting.”
Volunteering at Explorit is popular among DHS students, especially in the summer. Sophomore Ellen Ferguson began volunteering at Explorit’s afternoon camps in the summer of 2020.
“It’s really cool that they have these camps for kids, especially since so many have been cooped up inside this year,” Ferguson said. “It’s really impressive to me how careful the educators have been.”
Each week of this spring’s Explorit camps has a different theme; coming up is the All About You human anatomy camp, and the Earth Exploration physics camp. The February camps sold out quickly, with limited space and parents on Facebook seeking rare in-person education.
“I’m here to inspire the next generation of scientists,” Thompson said. “It’s why I do this job.”
For more information, go to https://www.explorit.org/camps.