In this series of blog posts, Jessica Dangott, one of our assistant directors, crosses things off of her camp bucket list and tells us about her new camp experience.

I’m not unfamiliar with filling in an empty seat in a classroom. It’s not something that fazes me or throws me for a loop. Actually, I usually prefer sitting next to new people. But I’ll tell you what – one day this past week, I’ve never felt more nervous looking for a seat in a classroom.

Every seat was filled in the STEM classroom – located in a newly renovated wing of our art center. Every camper was already five steps into making their rockets, their faces showing such concentration and determination that I could barely feel anything other than pure intimidation. I knew I was walking into unfamiliar territory-science and engineering was never a strong subject for me.

And it didn’t help that all I could hear was the JAWS theme music with every step I took closer to that one remaining chair. The time had come to sit down, swallow my pride, and try to make a rocket as cool as these 4th and 5th graders were making.

So, there I am, knowing nothing at all about STEM, completely out of my element. (Get it? Element…like the Periodic Table of Elements…anyway) The two STEM specialists are impressively remaining patient as they catch me up with the kiddos. In fact, pretty quickly into the lesson the campers begin to take on the role of “teach Jess how to not mess up her rocket.” It was really very sweet!

One young boy absolutely stole my heart. With his super cute chubby cheeks and wide eyes full of wonder, I just couldn’t help but listen to everything he was saying to me. Speaking at a rate of approximately 10mph, he began to explain the science behind rockets. All the while, his eyes got even bigger and his smile got even wider. And, I kid you not, at one point he even said to me with a straight face, “Come on, it isn’t rocket science, just put this there and that there and move on already.”

Before I knew it, it was time to tidy up and put our rockets in the corner to finish another day. A young girl, who also offered her rocket-perfecting-assistance, came up to me at the end and asked if I was going to put my name on my rocket. I slowly held up my rocket for her to see my progress and ask where I should write my name. She could not have been more supportive with her response, “Well, you’ve still got a lot of empty space where you didn’t put several layers of duct tape yet like the rest of us, so I think if you just put it right there in that big space, people will for sure know this one is yours.” She was so polite and encouraging that all I could think was how much I’m looking forward to receiving her staff application for Summer 2026.

All in all, that one hour in our brand new STEM class opened my eyes. Not only did I learn how to make a rocket, I learned how to make a rocket from some of our very bright and talented 4th and 5th graders. Not only did I have a chance to cross something off of my “Activity Bucket” List, I had a chance to cross something off of my “Learn from Campers” Bucket List as well. That bucket list is perhaps my personal favorite camp list of all time.

Our campers have so much to offer and teach to all of us. All we have to do is allow ourselves to open our eyes and minds as wide as my new friend from STEM whose eyes are always filled with wonder, imagination, creation, and opportunity.