Legacy STEM Camp Awarded 20k Hawk Tank Grant to Support Underserved Children

Middletown Students at STEM camp

Legacy STEM Camp Awarded 20k Hawk Tank Grant to Support Underserved Children

The Legacy STEM Camp is not your average summer camp. There are no bunk beds or campfires, and for many, its impact will endure long after summer ends.

Since the camp’s inception in 2006, it’s been common to see former participants return. Over the years, they’ve returned as junior counselors and adult mentors or as tutors, teachers, and community-builders.

They return because they’ve learned the value of staying connected to a mission inspired by Aristotle’s belief that “children are the legacy we leave for the time we will not live to see.”

child holding plants“Even my college graduates come back and volunteer,” says Dr. Celeste R. Davis, 3 R Development CEO and Miami University adjunct professor of family science. “We are still in contact because it's about relationship-building. That’s the reason it’s successful.”

Recently, the camp celebrated another successful milestone by receiving a 20k Hawk Tank award from the M.I.A.M.I. WOMEN Giving Circle, which supports non-profit research and programs that affect positive change.

The grant will allow the Legacy STEM Camp to expand its mission to bring more science, technology, engineering, and math-based opportunities to underrepresented and underserved 6th – 8th graders across Middletown, Ohio. 

Every summer, these students gain access to an impressive variety of free activities.

Lego and paper airplane projects illustrate engineering and aeronautical concepts. They offer illuminating adventures for many children who otherwise lack the resources to benefit from such experiences themselves. For example, regional technology experts often lead exciting projects and regular field trips to the Cincinnati Museum Center, Wright Patt Air Force Base, the opera, and more.

Other activities include the science of pizza, amazing animals, the physics of sports, astronomy, and local community gardening. “The underlying theme is that learning is fun, and math and sciences are everywhere,” Davis says.

Students showing projectsAs part of 3 R Development’s Legacy Division, the camp has become successful by several measures. Reading activities have led to increased student reading scores, and various problem- solving skills are developed.

“We're teaching our children how to become critical thinkers and how to be aware of their surroundings,” Davis says. “Too many of our students were saying ‘I can't,’ as opposed to ‘I don't know how.’ And in an educational environment, you want students to say, ‘I need you to show me where to start.’”

The camp, however, is also about more than just building interest and competence in STEM. The powerful relationship-building component helps students cultivate the social-emotional skills that are also pivotal for success today.

“I have students who have learned to self-regulate,” Davis says. “They don't get as many office referrals. They learn how to read verbal cues and identify what they can do when they feel stressed, overwhelmed, or unhappy. It's wonderful to see them blossom. That's the reward. But it can also be measured in how much better they're doing in school.”

Davis plans to use the Hawk Tank grant to introduce a new multilevel science fair for elementary, middle, and high school students. She also plans to expand involvement with various community partners, including Miami University.

The Legacy STEM Camp already has close connections with Miami’s Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) and the College of Education, Health and Society (EHS), where teacher education and social work majors often gain real-world experience by working directly with camp participants.Students showing their projects

Going forward, Davis also plans to introduce additional Miami campus tours, including new lab visits and career exploration events. In Middletown, the grant will also help recruit more tutors and fund parent engagement nights.

For Davis, it’s all in the service of building a lasting foundation upon which more underserved youth can thrive. She’s not only showing children that STEM really is part of their everyday lives, but also that learning is fun and that help and support are always there when they need it. 

“We have many programs in the community that look successful on paper, but their outcomes are not impactful,” Davis says. “I want to be able to say that we have impacted lives, that people are better for having been affiliated with our organization. That's very important to me, and that's what drives me.”