Science camp remains popular in Thompson

Kids in the annual WISE Kid-Netic Energy Science Camp that was in Thompson from July 8-12 welcomed their parents and program sponsors to a community lunch at R.D. Parker Collegiate on July 10, giving them a taste of what they do in the educational camp, which aims to expose kids to science and technology in hopes of sparking a lifelong passion.

"The purpose is basically to get kids this age excited and engaged in science, in different sciences so that once they do get to the high school level they kind of have an appreciation for sciences and math and continue to take those courses so that someday they might actually consider becoming engineers or geologists or some other type of scientist," said Jill Lautenschlager, a program manager for WISE Kid-Netic Energy, who is a former Thompsonite herself, having spent three years working as a teacher at Deerwood Elementary School and RDPC. "We're really just trying to expose them to something that they might not normally get an opportunity to do."

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Thompson is atypical of a remote community because it has a large number of engineers and scientists, especially geologists, thanks to mining being the mainstay of its community. In some of the other places that WISE Kid-Netic Energy puts on camps, however, that isn't necessarily the case.

"Kids end up doing what they know so they'll become teachers," said Lautenschlager. "Maybe their dad works for a bank so they just do what they know and we're trying to expose them to things that they might not know already. From there, we hope that they'll spark interest and become a lifelong thing."

Thompson has had week-long camps of 20 students each in the past, but this year the camp included two groups of 20 kids both attending during the same week. As always, the camp proved popular in the Nickel City.

"They seem to love it," Lautenschlager said. "Thompson sells out so fast. We sold out no problem. We get a lot of the same kids and parents that call every year."

To ensure that repeat campers are doing the same thing every summer, WISE Kid-Netic Energy Science Camps offer various themes each summer. This year, those themes included medical science, sustainable energy, genetics, mining and space discovery.

"On medical science day they got to learn how to make a cast, they made stethoscopes, they made a model lung," said Lautenschlager. "This morning they were in the gym. It was also a mining activity where they had to create a toaster and so a toaster includes copper and aluminum and all sorts of different materials so they had to find out where in Canada they would have to go to get those materials. There are a whole different bunch of parts to it but they're up running around and that sort of thing."

WISE, an outreach group from the University of Manitoba that started in 1990, stands for Women in Science and Engineering and all of the instructors at Thompson's camp this year were female, and all are in the senior years of science and engineering programs at the university.

"The girls that are here, one of them's in engineering and the other three are in science - one going into education, one's going to be going into radiation therapy, one of them is going into medicine," Lautenschlager said. "They have a really strong background in sciences, math, engineering."

As a company whose ability to find qualified employees is tied to ensuring Canadian students choose science and engineering programs in university, Vale is a major sponsor of the camps, with Major Drilling also supporting it.

WISE Kid-Netic Energy is a member of Actua, a charity that provides hands-on, interactive education in science, technology, engineering and math to Canadian youth ages six to 16. Actua provides programming in all of the provinces and territories, reaching 225,000 youth Canadian kids in 500 communities each year, focusing on engaging youth from groups that are usually underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math, such as aboriginal youth, girls and residents of inner cities and remote communities.

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