Pulling up to the school building after a fairly long drive I look around and see nothing really all that remarkable. My mom has been talking about sending me and my sister Nadine to this science day camp for about a week now. The car slows down and eventually comes to a stop. My mom turns to me and my sister who are in the back seat and says “Here you are! Enjoy your first day at Hydromania tell me all about it when you get home” She gives us both a kiss on the head and sends us off into the school. At the time I had no real idea about what Hydromania was, so I was very excited to start going every day. However, I was soon disappointed due to how un-engaging most the lessons were. Fast forwarding to today and I have to make a lesson myself, I know I can’t be that boring as well.

Hydromania as I came to learn was a science camp where kids like me would go and learn about different topics in science. My year that I was there I learned about all sorts of things. From lightbulbs to how the McNary Dam works. However, there was one crucial issue with Hydromania for me. It was boring. Really, really boring. Most of the way those topics were explained were in ways that just didn’t interest children. I say this only because it gives context to how I approached my lesson for Hydromania as an OSU Extension intern this summer in Umatilla County. I was determined to make it at least somewhat fun and engaging.

A young man gives an outdoor demonstration while kids watch.
Joeseph Ferguson engages students at Hydromania.

To start I had to find something that would work for a short presentation. Learning from my past experience I knew I had to do something that would be engaging and hopefully interesting to learn about. This was way more difficult than expected. I would spend hours and hours finding a lesson idea writing a plan just to bore myself to sleep with it. I was beginning to worry that I just wouldn’t be able to make any lesson I could teach here fun or interesting. My only real goal here is to teach a subject in an engaging way and at this point it felt like I was failing at that.

Eventually I settled on a presentation idea just to make it fun. I had to engage the kids. So began making the final outline of the plan. I would be teaching them how to separate and identify the three different layers of soil. I would have a jar, a cup of soil and a pitcher of water along with two others already separated jars of soil. I would take time to explain the different layers and what you should look for in healthy soil then the fun part would come. One kid would put soil in the jar while another pours the water and the third will shake the jar for a minute. It’s fun to do so the kids would be engaged.

After all that preparation the day finally came, Hydromania. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Before giving the lesson I was thinking things like, ‘What if I forget things or don’t know what to say?” “What if they ask questions and I don’t know the answers?” Anyway, I began the lesson, and it went well! The kids loved it! They were laughing and having a great time. I hope that helps them remember some of the cool information they learned.

Now that Hydromania has passed, and I won’t be likely to teach it again I had to stop and think about if I achieved my goal. I most definitely did. Getting kids to laugh and have fun with science is something that can be insanely difficult. I know I achieved it. That’s something I’ll always keep in mind – it’s not enough to just know information when it comes to teaching, you also must teach it and show it can be fun.

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