Young Dallas area students are discovering the solar system, learning about prehistoric dinosaurs and how to cook chocolate using the sun.
These exploratory journeys are made possible by a key partnership between the MARCH Foundation and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Since 2018, MARCH and Perot opened doors and curiosities for more than 70 elementary and middle school children to attend the Perot Museum Discovery Camp. The camp inspires students to explore careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Medford “Turp” Turrentine, MARCH Foundation board member, and Chairman Emeritus Ken Jarvis, spearheaded a 5-year grant to help children from several Dallas area schools participate in Discovery Camp. Turrentine believes this is a great opportunity to prepare the children for the future.
“As I look at it, this is a way of the future,” said Turrentine, a retired regional technology manager for UPS. “I mean, they can’t do anything today … without technology. The stuff that we talked about back in my day is antiquated.”
Bringing science to life is at the core of Discovery Camp, and a bridge to the jobs of the future. According to the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM programs and activities help children “discover real-world applications, spark their creativity and develop 21st-century skills including media and technology literacy, productivity, social skills, communication, flexibility and initiative.”
The total number of projected workers in STEM occupations is projected to grow nearly 11% by 2031, which is two times faster than the total for all occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s up from 10 million workers in 2021. The annual wages for these jobs are significantly higher, too. As of May 2021, median salaries for STEM occupations was $95,420, compared to $40,120 for non-STEM occupations.
Laura Bowles, camp manager and outreach educator for the camp, says the partnership “with the March Foundation is a gift that keeps giving.”
“Seeing the children at our camp smiling with expressions full of wonder is such a bright spot in our days,” Bowles said. “Knowing that the March Foundation is helping the Museum further our mission of inspiring minds through nature and science by increasing accessibility motivates us to continue expanding our reach to bring science to life for future astronauts, scientists, and engineers.”
The students love the program, too. In their post-camp evaluations, the students share their enthusiasm about their experiences. Atorn-Lennox Williams learned about the solar system, the planets and the moon. Avery Graham learned about dinosaurs. Kymbal Landers loved cooking chocolate using the sunlight.
Parents are grateful to the MARCH Foundation for opening their children’s eyes to such a unique opportunity. Zara Phillips Pendergrass said her child received “an opportunity to grow.” Additionally, she explained, “Nazura got the opportunity to experience success … problem-solving, critical thinking, and gain new friends.”
Since 1997, the MARCH Foundation, a private foundation with 501(c)(3) status, has been giving back, supporting the education of African American youth.
Turrentine is excited about the success of the program, particularly since some of the students participated in the camp two or three times. Campers have a blast exploring different topics with engaging, hands-on learning, Turrentine said. “That tells me that they are interested in STEM.”