Wonder Girls camp focuses on STEM

Wonder Girls campers put rubber bands around a watermelon to get it to explode Tuesday. The camp is held at Crossroads Fellowship. This year's focus is on STEM, but it includes other activities as well. (Ruth Campbell/Odessa American)

Exploding watermelons, building robots, role playing and a marshmallow challenge are just a few of the activities Wonder Girls campers are experiencing this week.

Wonder Girls Camp is aimed at rising fifth through eighth grade girls. It is organized by the Crisis Center of West Texas and held in the Student Building at Crossroads Fellowship.

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities are provided by 8020 from El Paso.

The watermelon challenge involves putting numerous rubber bands around a watermelon to make it explode.

The marshmallow challenge involves building a freestanding structure with spaghetti, marshmallows, a piece of string and tape.

Robin Lerma of 8020 said the activity promotes teamwork.

The camp has about 21 girls, which is smaller than some previous versions.

“I think the smaller groups really let the girls connect with each other a whole lot more and become friends (with) each other,” Crisis Center of West Texas Education Coordinator Irma Lopez said.

This is Lopez’ first time running the camp, but she said it’s been enjoyable working with her colleagues to plan it.

“It was stressful but now that we’re here, it’s a lot of fun,” Lopez said.

Campers rotate through the activities throughout the day. “Every day is different. Yesterday was mostly robotics, painting, coding, non-binary; things like that. But today is more STEM activities,” Lopez said.

Team leaders are largely girls that have experienced the camp and come back to help out.

Makayla Lowrance was a camper for two years and is now a counselor. The 14-year-old is home schooled.

“It feels really special that I get to help the kids experience what I experienced because my counselors were amazing and I’m just thankful that I get to do the same thing,” Lowrance said.

She added that she enjoyed her two years as a camper and the counselors were great. Lowrance said Director of Education and Partnerships Hannah Horick was a great leader.

“It was just really fun overall,” Lowrance said.

Being a team leader has been fun, but stressful, “trying to make sure I’m perfect.”

“But overall, everyone’s been nice,” she said.

Her younger sister is also a camper, so she gets to watch over her.

“I think it’s going to be a good sister experience,” Lowrance said.

For those who have not heard of Wonder Girls Camp, she noted that it’s worth trying.

“It’s something that has changed my summer every year and that they definitely need to try it out,” Lowrance said.

Participants in the Wonder Girls Camp at Crossroads Fellowship Tuesday place rubber bands around a watermelon to get it to explode. Helping out is Jacqueline Gonzalez (black T-shirt) a mentor with Think Camp. (Ruth Campbell/Odessa American)

Jacqueline Gonzalez, a mentor with Think Camp put on by 8020 in El Paso, said she had not been involved in Wonder Girls Camp before, but she loves it.

“Th girls have so much energy and they’re so funny. They’re really smart and I’m having a lot of fun with them,” Gonzalez said.

She added that she would recommend Wonder Girls to other girls.

“We have a variety of things that we have the kids do,” Gonzalez said.

Marli Jones, a 14-year-old team leader, had attended the camp for three years. She lives in Calhoun, La., but her dad works in Odessa so she comes to Odessa for the summer. Her mom found the Wonder Girls opportunity.

Jones added that it’s a lot of hard work to be one of the team leaders. She said she thinks being around fifth-graders will help her handle high school.

Triana Rodriguez, a 13-year-old Nimitz Middle School student, has been a camper for three years.

“It’s like an escape from reality. It’s really fun to interact with people your age and know everybody here for the same thing and to have fun,” Rodriguez said.

She also likes seeing friends she’s made and the mentors because you see them as more friends than teachers. Rodriguez added that the camp has helped her build confidence, as well.

Haylea Graves, a 12-year-old Bowie Middle School student, said the camp was good and really fun.

Graves, who has been going to Wonder Girls for three years, said she has enjoyed building robots and coding.