WWII Museum to focus on science in summer camp

Advocate staff photo by Kari Dequine Harding -- Collin Makamson and Annie Tete sort through through World War II era supplies in preparation for The National World War II Museum's first ever summer science camp.
Advocate staff photo by Kari Dequine Harding -- Collin Makamson and Annie Tete sort through through World War II era supplies in preparation for The National World War II Museum's first ever summer science camp.

The National World War II Museum is aiming to teach children about science as well as history in its first-ever summer camp in June.

During two one-week sessions, kids will learn how to make nylon out of sebacoyl chloride and hexodyne, design the ideal trajectory for air-powered straw rockets and cook up high calorie D-rations.

Each day will have a different theme, said Collin Makamson, who coordinates mobile educational outreach for the museum.

Campers’ days will be divided between hands-on lessons in the laboratory and exploring the museum, getting a behind-the-scenes look and talking to curators to connect their lessons and experiments to the exhibits.

As the number of people still living who served in World War II dwindles, the camp will provide a unique opportunity to touch, taste and hear history through the various activities, Makamson said.

The camp’s goal is to promote critical thinking and teamwork as participants examine the challenges faced 70 years ago, while relating the lessons the 21st century advances and applications.

On the day devoted to espionage, campers will send messages in invisible ink and make their own Morse code signaling boxes. Kids always have good use for secret codes, Makamson noted.

One of STEM Education Coordinator Annie Tete’s favorite toys is a thin red plastic strip attached to a Styrofoam cup—a “talking strip.” The strip is etched with lines on one side, and by simply rubbing along the lines with a thumb, words are projected out of the cup.

The camp is geared toward kids ages 8-12, who have grown up in an era of digital sound, Makamson noted. The talking strip, based on the same premise of a record player, helps children gain an understanding of a physical concept of sound waves, Tete said. Other lessons on communication will include the process of shrinking letters in order to maximize mail efficiency.

During aviation day, campers will design parachutes and get an up-close look at the museum’s iconic planes like the B-17 Flying Fortress.

On survival day, kids will make their own compasses, sundials, and purify water with a homemade filter.

Chemistry day will focus on the demand for raw, domestic materials during the war (with lessons about steel pennies and fiberboard license plates) and the resulting innovation of synthetic materials. Campers will learn how to create their own silly putty and Bakelite.

Science and technology that came out of World War II still is being used today, Makamson said, which is why the museum took that approach to the camp, in hope of inspiring future problem-solvers.

The camp is limited to 20 children per session, and the cost is $175 for members and $215 for non-members.

For more information about the camp, call 504.528.1944, ext. 315 or visit www.nationalww2museum.org/summercamps.