South Walker Elementary Tech Camp

Rising sixth grader Kadence Kindschuh, 11, works on writing a line of code to create illustration of an iPhone during the Tech Camp at South Walker Elementary at Friday, May 31.

WALKER -- It was nothing but trial and error, Kadence Kindschuh said.

Working with Terrapin Logo, a graphical programming language used for designing, the rising sixth-grader was trying to digitally replicate the iPhone X she had sketched on a piece of paper.

With other tech-savvy middle-schoolers working on their own illustrations nearby, Kindschuh quickly typed in a series of commands that would be carried out by a small turtle on the screen. After many unsuccessful attempts, the iPhone X finally came out looking “just right.”

So how many times did you have to start over to get it right?

Kindschuh paused for a moment before answering.

“A bunch,” she said with a laugh. “You basically have to start over every time until you get it right. But it’s a lot of fun. This was definitely my favorite part of the camp.”

While most middle schoolers try to get away from school in the summer, Kindschuh and a group of other rising fifth-graders and sixth-graders were itching to get back in.

They got their fix last month, when South Walker Elementary hosted a Summer Tech Camp for 12 students who wanted to work on the skills they learned during the school year and test out new education-based technology.

South Walker Elementary Tech Camp

Brianna Raef changes settings on the video game she created during the Tech Camp at South Walker Elementary at Friday, May 31.

The Summer Tech Camp, which started about eight years ago under Donna Keenan, brought children together for a week of learning and real-world application. Keenan, a Title 1 tutor, said she got the idea after visiting a friend’s summer tech camp and was instantly hooked.

“Once I saw the power in that — the things you can do in a summer tech camp the you can’t do in the school year — I was ready to do it here,” Keenan said. “This camp brings together kids who are interested in learning.”

Students worked on three main projects during the camp, Keenan said: Terrapin Logo image programming, Bloxels EDU video game building, and a green screen movie based on an historical event. The week-long camp concluded with a visit from the Livingston Parish Public Schools STEAM Express on Friday, May 31.

And as usual, there was never enough time in the day, Keenan said.

“I can’t tell you how fast three hours goes by,” she said. “Me and the other teachers would be like, ‘I wish we had this for another hour.’ Then the kids would ask us to add another hour next year. They really enjoy this camp.”

Like Kindschuh, several campers had a blast working with the Terrapin Logo program, replicating objects such as a pencil, Mickey Mouse, a street light, a flag, and Pikachu.

Other campers had more fun using Bloxels EDU, a program that allows children to build their own video games from beginning to end.

South Walker Elementary Tech Camp

Logan Nicholson, 9, a rising 5th grader, thinks through how to write a line of code to add to his project during the Tech Camp at South Walker Elementary at Friday, May 31.

Working in pairs, children had to make a video game themed on an historical event. Some of the topics they based their games on were the Boston Tea Party, the Great Depression, ancient Greeks and Romans, and 9/11.

Rising fifth grader Briana Jones and her partner based their game on the Revolutionary War, using George Washington as their main character. Whenever Washington passed an American or British soldier, text bubbles would appear above the characters’ heads providing gamers with information on the war.

One bubble read, “The Revolutionary War was started after the French Indian War. The war began on April 19, 1775. Who do you side with?” Another read, “You have gotten through the battle and survived the Revolutionary War, which ended on Sept. 3, 1783.”

One pair, Brinna Rafe and Sasha Caruso, added an extra educational component to their game by including questions about ancient Greeks and Romans.

The idea for the game was to allow children to combine their creative and analytical faculties, said paraprofessional Sundara Caruso, one of three teacher volunteers for the camp.

“You’re basically scaffolding a game from its foundation,” Caruso said.

On the last day of camp, children ventured outside the classroom and hopped aboard the STEAM Express, an old school bus that the school system converted into a traveling makerspace classroom during the school year.

South Walker Elementary Tech Camp

Jayce Purple arranges circuit parts to make a LED light up during the Tech Camp at South Walker Elementary at Friday, May 31.

The STEAM Express is equipped with Wi-Fi, touch-screen monitors and laptops, dry erase boards, flexible seating, changing LED lights, and hands-on, interactive modules to help students learn a variety of subjects.

Campers took advantage of the technological vehicle, programming robots to knock down bowling pins, examining objects through a microscope, building circuit boards, and arranging magnetic tiles into various shapes. 

“These are skills they’ll be able to apply across curriculum,” Keenan said.

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