The GEAR Up Imaginarium Camp is just one example of students mentoring younger campers in STEM activities. Rising 6th graders were challenged “unsolvable problems” of the world and put together a showcase to demonstrate their ideas for world problems like poverty, food insecurity and climate change. Lufkin High School rising 11th graders mentored the younger students. 

“I was nervous,” said 11th grader Paola Hernandez when asked about teaching the 6th graders.

Throughout the week, the 11th graders became more comfortable teaching and ending up having a great time with the kids.

“It was great!” said Chris Arrendondo, 11th grader.

Jaxsen Lewis went so far as to say it was “awesome” being with the younger students.

“It was fun getting to meet the kids,” said Joel Vega, 11th grader.

Ker’Alesha Camel, going into 6th grade, talked all about universal healthcare and demonstrated how she was able to program a TI calculator to simulate a heart beat using wires and play dough. She and Eian Bickley did experiments throughout the week about food security.

“We made thank you cards to give to the workers at East Texas Food Bank employees for helping to get food to people who don’t have food,” said Ker’Alesha.

The students also did an experiment in poverty training where they had only $38 a week to spend on groceries for a family of three. Eian chose for all of his meals to be broccoli and “purchased” forty bags of broccoli.

Faustino Amaya Velasquez, 6th grader, had a huge smile on his face when he talked about getting to be with the older students for the week. He loved the experiments and showcased his results from an experiment soaking eggs in different liquids to show how teeth stain.

Water solution was another “unsolvable” problem the students discussed. Mariah Hawkins, Braxton Rector, and Santos Romero all 6th graders were eager to talk about micro plastics in the air, getting oil out of the ocean water and water pollution. They even spent time this week picking up three bags of trash outside the grounds.

Markus Woods, 11th grader, said the kids ask a lot of questions.

“We did labs this week and activities, assignments,” said Woods.

Deforestation was another topic discussed and Joel Vega and Jaxsen Lewis both 11th graders enjoyed choosing leaves from the grounds and the creek area and identifying them with the help of biology teacher Jake Williams. The students put together a map to show the areas of the world that have forests and the effects of deforestation.

To say the least, this camp was a week that challenged young minds to imagine more and do more. Thanks to our 11th graders who were mentors and the 6th graders for challenging them.