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Five sixth graders in smocks and goggles tested their gag reflex as they tweezed out the tongues out of five leopard frog specimens in Sipnayan Camp’s STEM class this month.
“They are quite hesitant to dissect, but I am very happy because I told them that if you want to be in the medical field, you have to be exposed to things like this,” said science teacher Marites De Luna.
The children were among 85 who enrolled in the summer day camp held at Wilson’s Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education.
“Frogs are amphibians, so I wanted to let them know the adaptation,” De Luna said. “Why do you think their tongues are made that way? How come their tongues are not like humans?’”
De Luna puts down a fully dissected frog on the table, its innards pulled out and pinned.
“In some Asian cultures, they try to eat that,” De Luna said. “Not the leopard frog, but a different species.”
Eyebrows raise. Noses scrunch.
“How in the world?” one camper asks.
Organizers say participants were having their views of the world widened.
“Most of the activities that we are having here are hands-on because it is summer camp, and they want the kids to get all excited at the same time,” De Luna said. “This week we are doing dissection. Yesterday they dissected a cow’s eye.”
“I was told that they haven’t done anything like this because of how expensive some of the specimens are. So it is very good that Sipnayan is funding this for them to learn,” De Luna said. “Trust me, in a regular school setting, very seldom would they fund something like this. When I requested it, I was given this right away because this is what I want the kids to learn. It is part of their curriculum, the human systems.”
Reynalin Barnes, program director and executive director for the Sipnayan Camp, said the program started June 17 and ended Friday. The camp ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with 20 faculty members.
Sipnayan is the Tagalog word for mathematics, but its Philippine origin is science or learning.
Barnes said the camp was free. There was no registration fee, snacks, lunches and materials were provided and free transportation was offered.
“We are funded by the federal government,” Barnes said. “We are funded under the 21st Century Community Learning Center.”
The camp was for middle school students, incoming sixth graders. Some 90% of students were from Sallie B. Howard, and the vast majority were from Wilson County.
“We start with youth talks, character building, leadership,” Barnes said. “Most of the morning classes are academic, like math, reading, STEM and Spanish. In the afternoon we have extracurricular activities which are vocals, band, cooking, keyboarding, typing, and then sports.”
Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose and Wilson Board of Education member Rhyan Breen were among guests speaking on youth leadership during the camp.
Music teacher Geremy Howell said getting a well-rounded education is important to children to become model citizens in this world.
“It is important for them to have an education so they can do the things that are needed, so that this world can be progressive and they have a voice in this world,” Howell said. “They can go out and do the things that they want to do in this world and have options in life and be able to support their families and be able to pass it on.”
Being exposed to a wide variety of experiences opens the children’s eyes.
“It gives them a chance to have some diversity, to see that there is more to life than just math and reading, but also to help them develop their personalities and their interest in other things such as the arts,” Howell said. “It just helps them to be a well-rounded individual.”