Fifth-grade students from two Manchester schools recently spent a week in Woodstock Valley, Connecticut, in a residential camp program through the Discovery Center, a leading educational diversity initiative in Connecticut.
YMCA's Camp Woodstock was host to the event, which included 97 students from the Washington Media Arts Magnet School and Keeney Elementary School.
"Pratt & Whitney supports this week," explained Eunice Bragg, the director of Fund Development for the Center.
"Parents pay a commitment fee of $50 per child, but it costs close to $400 per kid," she said.
The non-profit organization, which was founded by Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in the early 90s, fosters an appreciation of cultural, racial and socio-economic differences and teaches children how to get along despite these dissimilarities.
Because the session in May was a Pratt & Whitney-sponsored week, there was a special focus on STEM skills, however, diversity training is always emphasized at camp.
"We bring urban and suburban kids together for the experience," continued Bragg. "Most of the activities are outdoors, so we use nature to do the teaching. We use the platform of the outdoor learning experience – we're a classroom without walls for a future without prejudice."
Ropes courses, climbing walls, arts and crafts, basketball and outdoor studies in streams and in the woods are but a few of the activities available each day during regular studies and free time.
"The STEM challenge this week focuses on creating a rescue aid package that needs to protect food and water from a 25-foot drop from our climbing tower," said Melany Gronski, the program's assistant director.
"The students use the engineering process to complete the task. They work in collaboration with students from both schools, and they are required to stay within a budget," explained Gronski.
With each "building material" having an associated cost, students must spend no more than $5.
"This whole lesson spans over three days with a finale day where they all drop their aid packages from the tower and share their designs with the rest of the students," said Gronski.
Positive attitudes are shaped through the self reliance, team building and the social connection the Discovery Center's programs encourage, noted Bragg. "We're preparing them for the future, because the day will come when they're going to be out in the real world working and living with people that are different than them."
For more information about the Discovery Center and corporate sponsorship, visit www.discoveringdiversity.com.