STEM Club Kids Culminate Year with Confidence and Curiosity

When fifth grader Keller Wills showed up for her usual Camp Fire club meeting last fall at Bear Creek Elementary, she didn’t realize her whole outlook on science was about to change.

Part of a grant-funded STEM program partnership with Camp Fire Central Oregon and High Desert Museum, her club had evolved into the Bear Creek STEM Adventure Club, one of four out-of-school programs focused on giving third through fifth grade kids learning experiences in science, technology, engineering and math content.

STEM students from four Bend elementary schools – Juniper, Jewell, Silver Rail and Bear Creek – had a special chance to share and celebrate their successes and year with a culmination evening family dinner at High Desert Museum recently, where they were recognized for their efforts, ideas and projects.

“I liked that we learned new things that we hadn’t learned about. It gave us a big step up for things we were about to learn,” Wills stated confidently–and she should: Wills just learned this spring that she earned the highest score of her class on her state Science test. She attributed her success largely to her STEM club.

“She came home and was really proud of herself,” said Wills’ mother. “She said she didn’t think she would have scored as well without the STEM camps because they didn’t learn that much in school…all of it came from STEM club.”

Keller said engineering was her favorite. “I loved building things with a lot of different materials– like we got to build robots. This was my first time getting to build things with THIS kind of stuff. It actually made me succeed on a science test. Half the things we learned in STEM, were on the test. Now, it feels like I can do it and I’ve advanced in it more.”

“Camp Fire and The High Desert Museum took on this project with hopes to bring creative and challenging opportunities to Central Oregon youth in an after-school setting, said Mary Bowker, Camp Fire Central Oregon Program Director. “We focused on students as doers and designers so they could really bolster their self-confidence in STEM topics. We really tried hard to allow the students freedom to explore their own ideas, find success in their designs, and evaluate their failures.”

Parents agreed that the STEM-focused clubs offered kids a chance to gain confidence both socially and academically.

“I can’t tell you how much this program has helped my family and my kids,” Niko Creane’s father, Sean, shared.

“Our son loves building,” Niko’s mother continued. “He’s super into mechanical stuff, but he struggled with math, and it’s been a huge deterrent to his confidence to enter the career he’s interested in. After being in the STEM program this year, he says without hesitation ‘I’m going to be an engineer.’ and that’s what he’s always wanted to be since he was little. He recently told a woman, ‘I’m going to work for the National Institute for Insurance Safety testing vehicles.’ You hear kids say I want to be a dancer, or an artist, but he has the reality to underpin that goal. He sees what goes into the end product. It’s not just a nebulous dream.”

For Baird Lemmon, a TAG student from Juniper Elementary who sought out the chance to learn more about STEM, it turns out the club offers something else kids need, too.

”I felt nervous for my first day, but since I got along with my group, I kind of felt confident in myself. I was nervous about meeting new people and now I feel connected to them at school.”

Creane’s parents added, “It’s helped our son’s self-esteem. STEM Adventure Club gave Niko an opportunity to be friends with a different, diverse group of people. Plus, this has built his confidence and curiosity – the most sacred thing in childhood.”

“It was really great to watch the kids in this program change their mindset from one of lack of interest in science to one of confidence and identity around science,” said Bowker. “I saw a big shift in how kids view themselves and their abilities around their ability to design and build, and the creative process in general of science, technology, engineering and math.”

This year’s program was driven by a grant funded by the Oregon Department of Education, in partnership with Oregon State University and the Central Oregon STEM Hub. Thomas Arand, the STEM Beyond School regional coordinator said the hope is that opportunities of this nature will continue in the future.

“We are hopeful that this year is just the beginning of increased opportunities for high quality, student-driven STEM learning in Central Oregon,” said Arand. “Seeing and hearing from the students and families about what STEM Adventure Club has meant to them has been very inspiring.”

“This grant opportunity was invaluable for many reasons,” Bowker continued. “Through extra funding, we were able to develop community partnerships, and plan to continue that trajectory. I hope to bring more opportunities for STEM education to Camp Fire youth in the next school year, whether we are funded again or not. Of course, this funding allows us to delve deeper and serve a broader audience.”

Unplug the Family and Get Outside: Research Shows the Huge Benefits of Nature, Nurturing and Free Play

Camp Fire Central Oregon SummerKids Camp Director Casey Davis

We know the scene all too well: It’s just after school, and after a frazzled day of work, multi-tasking and activity shuttling, everyone breathes a sigh of relief as the school packs get dumped at the door and the kids instinctively head to play Minecraft or watch TV. In today’s frenetic world, it’s easy for kids – and parents – to slip into inside activities…and stay there.

Visceral video games. Prolific technology. Narrow school curriculums that ditch arts and science for test scores: Just like the vanishing of the bees, fingers are pointing to these trends as the culprits of the collapse of the culture of free play, connection to nature and a rise in ADHD and other health issues in kids. Even Bend kids, growing up with unparalleled outdoor opportunities aren’t exempt from the disturbing national statistics of childhood obesity, with 21% of 9th graders overweight or at risk for obesity in Deschutes County. (Oregon Health Teen Survey (OHT), 2007 and 2008)

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, coined the concept “Nature Deficit Disorder” as a call to action to reverse the impacts today’s modern age is having on kids. Under ‘virtual house arrest’, Louv states, they need creative, outdoor play more than ever: Childhood health issues have been shown to be linked with less time outside, so it follows that many studies have shown encouraging evidence that playing outside, unstructured play and nurturing environments can impact youth significantly, including improving their resilience (McArdle, Harrison (2013) and ability to self-direct. (Barker, Semenov, et. al., (2014).

Parents need not panic! Thankfully, there are tons of local resources and simple ways to help kids reconnect with nature and lead a healthy lifestyle with a healthy dose of exploring outdoors. No need to launch a major expedition to infinity and beyond to be physically active and find nature. Thanks to our local youth programs, parks and good old Mother Nature herself, there are plenty of opportunities and activities your family can plug into to encourage a more natural, outside-driven and healthy lifestyle, right outside your door.

Easy Ways for Families to Turn Off Technology and Tune In

  1. Build a Fort…and You Can’t Do Your Homework Until You Do! Create a routine where kids have to be outside for a minimum of 20 minutes a day.
  2. Nature-spotting: Pack a picnic, pick a natural setting and hang out. Skip rocks. Go nature-spotting on bikes. Try Riverbend Park, the Deschutes Canal, Shevlin Park, Drake Park and Pilot Butte. Keep a family log of the birds, insects and animals you find.
  3. Not All Who Wander Are Lost: Naturehoods Children’s Forest has started “Naturehoods” at local parks and natural spaces that don’t require driving. (Check out Ponderosa Park’s     Kid-Created Interpretive Trail!) Start your own NatureHood project at your nearby park or abandoned lot near your house. Show kids how to safely bike or walk to them –independently!
  4. Plant a Seed. At home, all you need is a flower pot and a few seeds for homegrown horticulture and an up-close encounter with nature at work. For inspiration, check out Hollinshead Community Garden where families can adopt their own garden plot!
  5. Charades, anyone? Designate family movie night. It may be painful at first, but try to pare back screen time and carve out more connecting time by choosing one night per weekend for media.


Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Kids from Nature Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv, 2005


Press Release: Camp Fire Central Oregon STEM Beyond School Project

Camp Fire Central Oregon and High Desert Museum selected as one of the Central Oregon STEM Beyond School Project sites.

STEM offers science, technology, engineering and math programming for underserved youth. 

Bend, Ore Camp Fire Central Oregon, a local organization that provides co-ed programs for our youth to find their spark and ensure they gain the skills necessary to thrive throughout their lives and the High Desert Museum have been selected by the Central Oregon STEM Hub to create STEM learning opportunities in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson Counties.

In today’s rapidly changing world, all youth deserve the opportunity to participate in engaging, interactive and fun experiences related to science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM. The STEM Beyond School Statewide project (SBS) seeks to increase after school hours STEM programming for underserved youth by cultivating a vibrant and engaged collaborative network. Led by OSU Extension Service and Portland Metro STEM Partnership, and in partnership with the Central Oregon STEM Hub, together, they work to expand existing STEM programming and grow new STEM learning opportunities outside traditional school settings. Program sites of the SBS project are formed as part of a Community of Practice, where they will share curricular resources, receive coaching and professional development, and support project assessment and evaluation efforts to demonstrate the importance of STEM learning in non-traditional learning environments.

Oregon’s high school graduation rate of 69% ranks 49th nationally (National Center for Education Statistics). In the Bend-La Pine School District, economically disadvantaged students have a graduation rate of 68%. These students are unprepared for 21st century jobs, leaving an achievement gap that perpetuates a cycle of poverty. These students need high-quality STEM learning opportunities. Informal learning experiences are vital to achieving this goal. Studies complied by the Children, Youth and Environments Center for Community Engagement found that students who were engaged in informal learning in nature or at museums had higher standardized test scores in science, reading and writing; improved overall academic performance; increased pride in their accomplishments; and more advanced critical thinking skills. Many underserved students are not receiving these opportunities.

Together Camp Fire Central Oregon and the High Desert Museum will receive $28,000 to create STEM learning opportunities for a targeted group of 30+ students and will collaborate with the Central Oregon STEM Hub and other regional partners to implement the STEM Beyond School program in the Central Oregon region.

“Through the partnership with Camp Fire Central Oregon, we will engage students in activities from four established after-school clubs in some of the most economically disadvantaged schools in the region,” said Christina Cid, Director of Programs at the High Desert Museum.“ We will serve fourth and fifth grade students at Title I schools in Central Oregon, including Bear Creek, R.E. Jewell, Juniper, and Silver Rail,” said Cid.

The program will be divided between after school programs offered on school grounds and no-school day camps that will be located at several sites in Central Oregon, including the High Desert Museum.

“Camp Fire has been providing educational opportunities to underserved students in Central Oregon for 100 years,” say Kecia Kubota, Executive Director for Camp Fire Central Oregon. “Currently, we have more than ten established after-school clubs and through this program, participating students will gain vital STEM skills, explore STEM careers, and develop confidence and leadership skills,” says Kubota.



About Camp Fire Central Oregon

Founded in 1910, the national organization Camp Fire has actively engaged youth and teens in building essential skills for life. Camp Fire Central Oregon has been a co-ed youth development organization since 1975 that provides out-of-school time, teen service and leadership, camp and environmental programs. Young people want to shape the world. Camp Fire provides the opportunity to find their spark, lift their voice, and discover who they are.


About the High Desert Museum

Through exhibits, wildlife and living history, the High Desert Museum creates learning experiences to help audiences discover their connection to the past, their role in the present and their responsibility to the future. The Museum is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that was founded in 1982.


5 Great Reasons To Volunteer With Us

Did you know that Camp Fire relies on amazing adult and teen volunteers to make the magic of Campfire Central Oregon happen for kids each year? Volunteering is easy and fun! Here are the top 5 reasons why you should volunteer with Campfire Central Oregon.


Make New Friends

Volunteering at Campfire Central Oregon is a great way to meet others in the community and form new friendships!  Friendships made at camp are often lifelong, motivating and inspirational.

Make A Difference

Being a volunteer at Day Camp means you have the opportunity to make a difference in our campers’ lives! Imagine inspiring others and making a meaningful difference in the life of a child in our community.

Stay Active and Healthy

Campfire camps are always full of energizing and fun activities that keep our kids as well as our volunteers active. Hiking, canoeing and field games are just some of the activities that will keep you moving. Volunteering is also a great morale booster and can help keep you feeling happy and more self confident by staying active and busy.

Connect to the Outdoors

Day Camps are a great way to enjoy the beautiful parks all around Central Oregon while giving your technology a much-needed rest! Participate with campers in tons of great hands-on activities that explore the outdoors including walks, nature hikes, fire-building, outdoor cooking and safety classes.


Full-time adult volunteers get to send their kids to camp for free! Children of full-week adult volunteers will also automatically gain entrance into the camp of their choice and will be immediately taken off the waitlist!

Teen Volunteers learn critical leadership, communication and problem-solving skills while building their resumes and earning much-needed service hours!

YOU Make it Possible!

Learn more about Volunteering at Day Camp and join the fun!

Camp Counselor Emma Bell

Meet Emma Bell

Emma Bell is a remarkable young lady and camp counselor who joined Campfire Central Oregon during her high school years here in Bend Oregon. She is remarkable in that she earned her Wohelo award so quickly thru hard work and perseverance and a truly giving spirit.

“Wohelo” stands for Work, Health, and Love—values that have been central to Camp Fire since our founding in 1910. The Wohelo Award is the highest achievement for youth in Camp Fire. This prestigious award, open to teens in grades 9 through 12, offers opportunities for personal development, leadership, and advocacy on important issues.

The award is earned by completing an intensive and highly individualized project. Teens design their projects based on their interests, values, and goals. Completing the requirements to earn the Wohelo Award takes hard work, dedication, motivation, creativity, determination, and discipline. The award demonstrates perseverance, the ability to set and achieve meaningful goals, a strong work ethic, commitment to community service, and leadership.

Wohelo Award recipients tell us it is the most rewarding experience Camp Fire youth will ever have. And, it is an important addition to a job application, college application and interview, and as part of other community activities he or she is interested in.

Emma is currently a student at COCC and an active camp counselor as well as a lifeguard at one of the local pools. To know Emma is to know that she is one of those rare and beautiful beings inside and out. She gives so much to her family and the kids at Campfire Central Oregon. Emma’s leaders tell us she has an amazing sense of humor, loves working with all the kids and has a very bright future in front of her.

Would you like to find out more about earning your Wohelo Award? Send us an email at and we can will help you light your fire and ignite your spirit.


Back to School Tips


Before you know it this summer will be a distant memory and your kids will already be back to school. Will you and the family be ready? There are so many items to check off the list for everyone. We have put together these top tips to help transition you and your kids to this time of year.

Adjust to the new routine

Easing into the new school year schedule and be challenging. into the school-year schedule. Getting back into the school routine can be a challenge for everyone in the family. To make the adjustment easier, start early.

• A few weeks before school starts, move bedtime back to an earlier time.
• Put a positive spin on going back to school. Talk about the fun things your child will learn, the old friends he’ll see and the new friends he’ll make.
• If your child is anxious about starting the next grade, reassure her that other children have these feelings too.
• Establish school-day schedules for homework, TV, baths, and bedtime.
• Arrange play dates with friends from school to re-establish connections that may have been dropped for the summer, or to create new ones.

Get organized

Take advantage of the slower pace during your time away from school to set up for the busy school year ahead.

• Many schools send out school information and a packet of forms to fill out before school starts. If you can discipline yourself to fill out the paperwork several days before it’s due, you’ll avoid a last-minute panic.
• Have the necessary immunization records available for easy reference.
• Update school emergency contact and health information for the coming year.
• As you read through all the school information, mark important dates (such as back-to-school night, parent-teacher conferences, and school holidays) on the family calendar.
• Start a folder for school newsletters and other papers so that you can easily find and refer to them if necessary.
• Establish a “get ready the night before” policy. Pick clothes for the next day and pack the backpack every evening before bedtime, and you’ll save precious time in the morning.

Arrange for transportation

Everyone will feel better if transportation to and from school is addressed well before the start of the school year, particularly if your child is walking, riding their bike, or taking the bus.

Walking or biking

• Chart out a route to school or to the school bus stop.
• If your child is going to a new school, take a dry run a few days before school starts.
• Go over the rules of stranger awareness and traffic safety. Warn your child to always walk with a friend, and to avoid vacant lots and places where there are not a lot of people.
• Be sure your child has your daytime phone number (including area code) and address, as well as the number of another familiar adult.
• Scout out safe houses in the neighborhood where your child can go in case of an emergency.

Taking the bus

• Remember to get the new bus schedule!
• If your child will be taking the bus for the first time, discuss the bus route and bus safety rules with her.


• If you will be driving your child, have a backup arrangement with another parent in case you are delayed for some reason.
• Confirm carpool arrangements in advance and make sure your child knows who will be picking him up before and after school.
• Become familiar with your school’s traffic safety rules, drop-off and pick-up procedures.

Confirm after-school care arrangements

Most after-school care arrangements must be made months ahead, frequently in the winter or spring before your child starts school. As the school year approaches, however, it’s a good idea to confirm your plans.

• Make sure your child knows where he is going after school.
• Double-check on your care plans and communicate with the provider a few days before school starts.
• If your child will be home alone after school, establish safety rules for locking doors and windows, and for answering the door and the telephone. Make sure she knows to check in with you or another adult when she/he arrives at home.


Do you have any tips you would love to share? We would love to hear them!


Free Summer Meals For Kids

Here is a great resource for the children in our state in need of free meals. During the school year many kids eat free or reduced meals each day. When school ends so does this important resource. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is meant to help fill that nutritional gap.

Summer Meals is open to all kids 1-18. Adults are welcome to attend, although the meal service is just for kids. More info and an interactive map can be found here;


Don’t Forget Your….



SummerKids is off to a great start!  With so many fun games and creative activities planned, we know your kids will be having a blast right from the start.

What to Bring EVERY Day

  • Water bottle – labeled with child’s name.
  • Closed-Toed Shoes or sandals that stay on. No flip-flops.
  • Sunscreen – please apply everyday before arriving.
  • Lunch – Bring lunch OR you may participate in the Bend-La Pine free summer lunch program at Ensworth. (We were previously asking for advanced sign ups, but that is no longer necessary.)
  • Snacks – Unlike last year, we are unable to provide snacks this year. Some kids tend to get hungry easily, send as many fruits, veggies, and other health snacks. Please no processed sweets, gum, or candy. We thank you for your help on this!
  • Swimsuit and towel on WEDNESDAYWednesday is water play! Every Wednesday all summer long, we will have a Water Slide and Slip-n-Slide from 2:00-4:00pm.  A hat and swim shirt is also recommended if your child is sensitive to too much sun