Goop and glue teach science at Camp POSTCARD

Camp POSTCARD (“Police Officers Striving to Create and Reinforce Dreams”) has just ended its 18th successful season — with an exciting new emphasis on science education and better nutrition.

“Our new Science Day got off the ground pretty nicely,” says Michael Coon, camp director and Vice President of IT and Administrative Services for Volunteers of America.

Held in the middle of camp week, Science Day was made possible through the generously donated time and talents of retired scientists and science teachers from Maine School Science Volunteers of Topsham, Maine. The volunteers — including a former industrial chemist and adhesives expert who once worked on Velcro® — met with the campers in the main lodge and led them in simple group experiments designed to give a taste of the intrigue, thought process, orderly record-keeping, and intellectual challenge of science. 

Is it a fluid or a solid?
One group explored the nature of fluids — their highly changeable shape, divisibility, ability to flow, and more. The session ended with a dramatic and entertaining experiment in which the campers combined two seemingly ordinary fluids (Elmer’s glue and liquid starch), creating wads of strange nontoxic goop the size of golf balls that behaved much like Silly Putty, which bounces, flows and stretches slowly, yet breaks when stretched quickly or given a sharp blow. Over time, it forms a puddle.

The campers were allowed to keep their pieces of goop — brightly colored with food coloring — and were pretty excited about it.

Sticking to your work
Another group explored the nature of adhesives — including wood glue, a fresh-mixed epoxy, heavy-duty two-sided tape, and a hot-melt “glue gun” adhesive — to compare their setting time, performance on various materials, and strength. The session ended with a lively and informative “tug-of-war” in which pairs of campers successively pulled apart glued wooden-slat frames to sort the adhesives from weakest to strongest.

The road ahead
“For us,” says Michael, “Science Day was basically an experiment in its own right. For next year, we’re going to give thought to how well it worked, how many campers can participate effectively, and whether classroom-type activities are the best use of our time at camp.”

Michael emphasized that he was encouraged by the results. “After all,” he added, “something needs to be done to help reinvigorate the spirit of scientific inquiry in young American minds. We’re hoping that our Science Day at least ‘lights one little candle’!”

Fit, fed, and fun
Meanwhile, the 2012 season saw campers making progress, too, in the second year of the camp’s Fit, Fed & Fun for Life program. The program, which is funded by the National Recreation Foundation and generous corporate sponsors like Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, fights obesity and encourages campers to get outdoors for more active recreation and to eat healthier meals.

Over the course of the week, the campers measured their body-mass index (BMI), enjoyed fresh local foods at a food festival, played outdoors for much of each day (keeping careful records of their activities), and tried unusual new foods, such as kiwis, at each meal.  

Healthy…one step at a time
In partnership with 4-H, the camp’s annual Demo Day (consisting of live demonstrations by law enforcement and other volunteer groups) featured expert instruction in nutrition and exercise, making healthy smoothies, a recipe book, and more.

Today and into the future
“Part of our goal… was to keep the momentum going after camp ended — encouraging the kids to take home useful information and play a real role in helping their family build good eating habits,” says Michael. The campers received a binder to take home packed with nutrition information as well as how to access to a newly launched Camp POSTCARD website (accessible only to registered users) with healthy recipes, a fitness tracker, and kid-friendly tips on staying healthy.

You can help
Camp POSTCARD aims to help Maine 5th and 6th graders build relationships, learn life skills, and change their perceptions of law enforcement. It is staffed entirely by volunteers, including more than 60 law enforcement officers, social workers, public safety officers, and Volunteers of America staff.

Thanks to donors and other support, there is no charge for any child to attend.

To learn more, “adopt” a camper, donate cash or supplies, or create a sponsorship or other partnership, please contact us today at 207-373-1140.