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Riverwood High School STEAM Camp Offers Valuable Mentoring and Learning Opportunities

What’s more fun for 5th graders than visiting a real high school and hanging out with actual high schoolers and teachers? SSEF is thrilled to make this valuable educational and mentoring opportunity possible via a STEAM Legacy Grant to Riverwood High School.

In this program that positively impacts two of our Sandy Springs public school communities, Lake Forest 5th grade teachers and Riverwood visual arts (music, art and drama), science, math and ESOL teachers collaborate to offer a truly integrated STEAM experience for 5th graders, with activities in English, math, science, art, drama and music for 5th graders who are learning English as a second language (ESOL). Riverwood High School students help mentor and facilitate this exciting STEAM Camp opportunity on six Saturday mornings throughout the school year. The elementary school students, who are welcome to bring their parents, meet with teachers and high school mentors to learn about monarch butterflies.

“The high school student mentors give the younger students attainable role models and demonstrate they, too, can be successful in high school in the future. The mentoring opportunity helps build character, self-confidence and everlasting friendship for all of the students,” explains Mary Schmidt, ESOL Dept. Chair at Riverwood and STEAM CAMP coordinator. In addition, Ms. Schmidt said, “Through this opportunity, the elementary school students have a chance to spend time at their feeder high school, which takes the mystery and fear out of their future high school experience. Lake Forest students have a chance to become familiar with students, staff and the school where they will attend.” That’s a huge plus for 5th grade participant, Leslie. She says, “I like that we go to real classes that actual high schoolers go to and we get to see what we are going to do in high school.”

Marianna Nunez, a Riverwood mentor, agreed. She said, “I think STEAM Camp is good for the 5th graders that attend because it allows them to become more familiar with Riverwood. Students can ask the high school mentors more personal, one-on-one questions that they might have about going to high school.” Sarah Smith, a Lake Forest teacher, noted, “I love the collaboration that comes with STEAM camp. It is so wonderful to see our 5th graders interacting with high school mentors. It shows them what to look forward to in their education and encourages them to work hard so they can successfully get to high school.”

Beth E. Stahlman, the SSEF “champion” for this program, agrees. “What makes this program remarkable is that there is engagement on so many levels. The passion and energy of six of Riverwood’s incredibly talented faculty [Mary Schmidt, Carlos Rodriguez, Ron Marstall, Jeanne Urban, Lucy Harrold and MaryBeth VanderHoek], who give up their Saturdays to participate in this program, truly bring their subjects to life for the students. I saw enthralled fifth graders from Lake Forest Elementary sit patiently on a piano bench, learning to play the piano for the first time. I saw the students re-enact the flight of the butterfly in Riverwood’s Black Box Theatre, examine monarch butterflies under microscopes in science class, study the butterfly’s lines of symmetry in math, write stories about the monarch butterfly’s trip to Mexico in English class and design cover art for their stories in art class. And I saw the parents who attended the program similarly engaged, whether in Spanish or English, in the learning that their children were doing. This is an inspiring program that touches many lives, and our community is better for it.”

Judging by what administrators, faculty, parents and students say about the camp (see quotes below), it is a tremendous success.

Sponsors of our STEAM Showcase help make it possible for Sandy Springs Education Force to support this and other grants to our 11 public schools in the city. We would love your support! Would you like to contribute to help us support programs like this? Donate now HERE.

More Accolades for Riverwood High School’s STEAM Camp

“I am very appreciative of the work that Mrs. Schmidt and our teachers and students have done to make the STEAM camp a reality. While we want to expose our elementary school students to all of classes we offer in science, math, art, engineering and technology, we also want to excite them about high school and they love the chance to spend some time with high school students. ” — Dr. Shaw principal of Riverwood International Charter School

“The camp has been a huge positive academic/arts/science experience for David and his friends. I can see how the camp has helped David and his daily school activities, specifically in science, his favorite subject. Since coming to the camp, David’s science teacher has complimented David for being more engaged.” — Officer D. Rene, parent and school officer at Riverwood International Charter School

“I love STEAM camp because we learn about Monarch butterflies, drama, music, art, English and plants. The best part of it was planting milkweed and drama.” – Baron, 5th grade Lake Forest student

“I like STEAM camp because we get to learn a lot about Monarch butterflies. I also like that we learn how to play piano. We always have fun in drama because we play different games.” – Fernando, 5th grade Lake Forest student

“I like to help out as a high school mentor for STEAM Camp because I enjoy working with the 5th grade students.  I think STEAM Camp does different and fun activities that the 5th grade students can relate to and bring back to their classes at Lake Forest Elementary.”
– Elizabeth Hernandez, Riverwood Mentor

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