WOW! Science Camp's homegrown program aims to spark love of science in children




WOW! Science Camp students interact with animals such as Bubba, an albino Burmese python. (Photos courtesy WOW! Science Camp)
WOW! Science Camp students interact with animals such as Bubba, an albino Burmese python. (Photos courtesy WOW! Science Camp)

WOW! Science Camp students interact with animals such as Bubba, an albino Burmese python. (Photos courtesy WOW! Science Camp)

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Tonya Taylor, an assistant teacher at the camp, shares a tortoise with a group of students.
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Barbara Cargill, left, began the camp in the 1990s. (Courtesy Barbara Cargill)
As a former high school science teacher with three young sons in the mid-1990s, Barbara Cargill said she wanted to find activities for children that were more enriching than a trip to the zoo.

“It dawned on me we needed something for young children that deals with science in our area,” Cargill said of the camp’s formation.

Cargill founded Wonders of The Woodlands Science Camp, or WOW! Science Camp, to provide hands-on learning activities for children. Aside from having to cancel last year’s camps due to COVID-19, the camp is in its 27th year, she said.

Since the pandemic is still ongoing, the camp will serve fewer students this year than usual, employing strategies that have been successful at The Woodlands United Methodist Church, where the camp is held.

The camp will host up to about 900 students this year, compared to its usual 1,100 or more. Campers will also observe COVID-19 safety protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said.A popular feature that will return this year is guest speakers such as Drew Schultz, who was a student at the camp as a child. He is now the owner and zookeeper of The Learning Zoo, a Conroe-based business, Cargill said.


The camp is open to students age 3 to fourth grade, and students in fifth grade and older can apply to be junior volunteers. They can volunteer until they are 18, at which time they can become assistant teachers.

Although activities can include interacting with live animals and outdoor exercises, the curriculum developed by camp leaders is designed to reinforce what children are learning in classrooms, she said.

“We use the big science words,” Cargill said. “Don’t tell me that a 3-year-old can’t use science words when they can remember dinosaur names. ... They can learn words like hypothesis and metamorphosis.”

Another group the camp serves is adults with disabilities, Cargill said. It will be the third year for the adult program, she said.

The hands-on element of the camps is emphasized across all ages and grade levels, she said.“Parents ask me all the time, ‘What are you doing? My child comes home and can’t stop talking about science,’ and all they learn it’s hands-on; that’s the secret for success. ... What better way to teach a child?” Cargill said.

WOW! Science Camp

The Woodlands United Methodist Church

2200 Lake Woodlands Drive, The Woodlands

281-297-5948

www.wowsciencecamp.com
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.