The Importance of Education Exposure for Children in Need by Kenneth Edmo
I was born and raised in Montana, spending most of my life on the Flathead Reservation. I have always been interested in ecology and wildlife. I graduated from Salish Kootenai College with a degree in wildlife and fisheries and eventually received a master’s degree in resource conservation at the University of Montana. Before I even began searching for positions in my field of study, I received an email from Montana Campus Compact about joining their team as an AmeriCorps College Coach. After researching AmeriCorps, MTCC, and specifically the host sites, I was most interested in Indigenous Research and STEM Education or Montana American Indians in Math and Science (MT AIMS). I thought this would be a great opportunity to encourage children to pursue STEM education who may not have had a positive upbringing—similar to my own.
As a child, I did not have a positive role model who taught me the importance of education, so I did not enter college right after high school. It was not until later in life that I found what I was looking for: a desire to become a conservationist or wildlife biologist. I knew taking this position as a College Coach would be a learning experience since my background is not in education, however, I wanted to expand my knowledge and help others with what I do know. Even if I could help just one of the students during our summer camp find what I could not at their age, then I knew I would feel I did something right for them and their communities overall.
As I started my service year, I assisted my host site (located at the University of Montana) mainly with the logistics for our upcoming summer camp for students in Montana ranging from 6th-10th grade. These students are from or around reservations and may not have as great of opportunities as students from other areas of the state. We had over 100 students attend this year from June 5th-25th with many being their second or third time attending. The students partook in a variety of STEM and other activities. They learned how to build their own computers, make LED lamps, examine macroinvertebrates, 3D printing, writing, mathematics, and other science activities. They also got to engage in other fun activities such as going to Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho, which they all enjoyed. I also was able to be an instructor for physics activities. I was nervous at first since I do not have a strong background in physics; though as time passed, I noticed the kids were interested in the topics and activities.
I was pleased to see how interested and engaged the students were during our MT AIMS summer camp. At the end of the camp, each group was asked if they wanted to return the next summer, and almost everyone replied with a yes. I feel this opportunity to learn about STEM fields and exposing the students to what they may learn in college will be highly beneficial for their future, if this is the path they choose to pursue. I am glad I was able to be part of this experience.