OAKHURST – Quiety and without much fanfare, for five years now, the Bass Lake Education Foundation (BLEF) has successfully supported and promoted science, arts, sports and more for school age children in the mountain area. They’ve met their goals by bringing a diverse set of programs to the foothills, says BLEF Founder Kriszti Mendonca, and the plan going forward is to create even more opportunity for science-based fun.
Case in point: BLEF is currently offering computer camp taught by instructors from San Diego-based ThoughSTEM, a company that teaches kids 8-18 computer programming in project-based and and self-motivated ways.
BLEF still has a few spaces open for young people in grades 4-6 to attend their Game Making Computer Camp. Starting Monday, July 14 and running through Friday, July 18, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., the program operates at Oakhurst Elementary School in the Computer Science Lab.
The cost for Game Making Computer Camp is $150 for the week, as BLEF has underwritten much of what it’s taken to bring ThoughtSTEM instructors to the foothills.
Co-Founder of the company Sarah Esper holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science with a focus on Computer Science Education.
“The camp is offering drag-and-drop languages, either Scratch or App Inventor,” explains Esper. “Both of these languages were developed at MIT, and while approachable by young students, are used at the university level at UC schools as well.”
Esper develops computer science curriculum, trains teachers, and teaches computer science to 8-18 year olds, and also for AP Computer Science and Undergraduate Computer Science courses. The camp presents a unique opportunity for area children.
“Students will learn the basics of the concepts and languages such as loops, conditionals, parameters, variables and control, concepts that are transferable to all programming languages,” Esper says. “They learn the concepts by making projects of their own design. They’re shown how to plan out their projects, and how to build them like a true computer scientist: with testing, user-studies, and more testing.”
Esper has trained all ThoughtSTEM instructors including the two running the camps up at Oakhurst this year. Carlos Herrera is a third-year Cognitive Science major who has over a year experience teaching ThoughtSTEM curriculum and engaging 8-18 year olds in computer science concepts and projects. Jessica Capo is a second-year Computer Science major who has been working for ThoughtSTEM for the past 2 years, teaching our curriculum to students of all ages.
The Bass Lake Education Foundation is an independent non-profit public charity, founded in 2009 after state-wide school budget cuts reduced school programs for Madera County. By offering free clubs, low-cost workshops, and sponsoring field trips, BLEF promotes a love of learning, nature, and the sciences through a greater understanding of the living world.
The organization is run by a small group of parent volunteers who do not take a salary and have almost no overhead costs. All proceeds go directly back into the programs for children.