Returning to summer camp

By |  September 17, 2018 0 Comments
Karl Danneberger headshot

Karl Danneberger

A colleague of mine, Pamela Sherratt, this year created and organized a week-long STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) camp through The Ohio State University. Pam’s STEM summer camp focus was on the science behind turfgrass management.

I asked her why she would want to take on such a task, which requires a major time commitment along with a monetary cost (students would attend free). Pam told me that when she was 16 years old she took a STEM camp in horticulture in England. That camp, she said, started her down the path to a career in turfgrass science. Pam hoped her summer camp would open up other students to the same possibilities.

Twenty six secondary-level students, middle school aged, signed up to take the camp during the week of July 9. Although most of the students came from the Columbus, Ohio area, some came from as far away as Dayton (60 miles). The students, both male and female, came from diverse backgrounds, ranging from your “normal” middle school students, with some sons and daughters coming from families of golf course superintendents and athletic field managers.

The faculty and staff of the turfgrass program, along with two student counselors, assisted with the program. Prior to the start of the camp, we had to go through the security checks and training classes required of all who are in contact with minors. I must admit that the classes and subsequent testing were not easy.

Because the focus was hands-on experience, the students were broken up into four groups of six to seven students who rotated among four stations during the morning and afternoon sessions. Throughout the week, Pam emphasized hands-on activities for the students in short bursts. She based many of the activities on the 20 years that First Green has been conducting environmental STEM classes on golf courses. The First Green effort is supported by the United States Golf Association, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, local GCSAA chapters and golf associations. First Green research has found that students retain the least material through lectures, with demonstrations slightly higher, and hands-on activities having the most retention. Additionally, the attention of a middle school-age student is 10 to 12 minutes.

During the week, the students visited golf courses and athletic fields throughout central Ohio, including two golf courses, The Ohio State University Golf Courses in Columbus and Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin. Dennis Bowsher and Chad Mark, golf course superintendents at Ohio State and Muirfield Village, respectively, and their staffs coordinated these visits and conducted the learning stops.

Visits to Ohio Stadium and Mapfre Stadium were hosted by Brian Gimbel and Wes Appelfeller and their staffs, respectively. We had copied the idea of “Cool Tools” from First Green, and we implemented it not only on the golf courses but at these stadiums as well. We used tools to make field measurements, including the Clegg Impact hammer, shear vane, TDR, ball bounce, infrared gun, macrometer and mowing height prism.

Of the many highlights of the camp, two stood out for me. One was the putter each student made on the first day of camp. Faculty from the Professional Golf Management program worked with each student to construct a putter that they would use through the week. This was one of the students’ favorite activities.

The second was at Ohio Stadium, where Vlade Janakievski, owner of Easy Living Deli in Columbus (a lunch sponsor), revisited with the students the spots where he kicked game winning field goals during his varsity career at Ohio State (1977-1980).

We face a shortage of qualified people coming into the golf management profession. Camps like this could serve as a feeder system for the future.

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