Children are getting blown away by science and engineering this week as part of the "Up, Up, and Away" camp at Northeastern State University.

This weeklong camp for 4- and 5-year-olds is part of the Summer Youth Academies held through the Continuing Education Department, and it almost had to be cancelled.

Only three 5-year-olds were enrolled this week, but organizers didn't want them to miss out on the learning experience. Other day camps were cancelled due to low enrollment numbers, but those students were put into a Harry Potter camp.

The youth in Up, Up, and Away are learning about different ways things move and the forces causing the movement.

"It's really fun and exciting. We put a lot into the curriculum. We follow the state standards. We focus on critical thinking, but the kids have fun," said Karissa Pierson.

Pierson just graduated from NSU with a degree in early childhood education. She has led sessions during previous Summer Youth Academies.

"We have a lot of kids who come back year after year. It's something good they can do during the summer," she said.

The camps get started around 8:30 a.m. and let out at 4 p.m. The little kids will have snacks in the morning and afternoon, and eat lunch around 11:30 a.m. Pierson takes them outside for about 15 minutes after snacks. All campers receive T-shirts and lunch with the enrollment fee.

"We start the day reading books and talking about what we'll do that day. One I have shows different types of flying machines. We talked about airplanes and helicopters and how they're different," said Pierson.

With age-appropriate activities, the children are learning about the process of experimenting.

"We talk about the ideas, what materials are needed, and how to execute it. They work on thinking through problems," said Pierson.

The campers used two different designs to make paper airplanes, and assembled Styrofoam airplanes.

"We talked about aerodynamics. We then saw which design flew better," said Pierson.

Using a paper cut-out of a rocket, the kids would put them on straws and blow them off to make them fly.

Children got to personalize their paper crafts by coloring them with crayons.

The kids have blown bubbles and talked about what they are made of and why they float.

If the weather is nice, the campers will get to go outside and fly kites.

"We will talk about air and how it can hold things up," said Pierson.

Before using balloons for different activities to talk about air as a force, the little campers first had to learn how to blow the balloons up.

"I like balloons. The cardboard airplanes are my favorite," said Joshua Champlain, 5.

To make a balloon run, yarn was threaded through a shorter piece of straw and the line was taped to two tables so it hovered over the ground. A blown-up balloon was then taped to the straw so when the air was released from the balloon, it would make the contraption slide along the yarn.

"We discussed which direction the air would go out and which way the balloon would fly. We tried several different ways and they didn't work, so we kept trying until we got it right," said Pierson. "They are learning to use critical thinking skills and to not get frustrated when it doesn't work. We're also working on fine motor skills."

Later this week, the campers will launch rockets and make "hovercrafts." Pierson has two types of PVC rockets, which will be attached to 2-liter bottles, and another design made from plastic Easter eggs propelled by Alka Seltzer. The hovercrafts will be made out of CDs and balloons.

"This is easy stuff you can use at home, and it's exciting to them," said Pierson.

Upcoming camps for 4- and 5-year-olds include There's a Hyena in My Boot, which will involve making things out of other objects and talk about animal habitats; Comets, Planets, & Space, Oh My! will focus on space; and Let's Build will involve Legos and patterns.

"The space one will be fun. We have a lot of material from NASA. I went with Barbara Fuller and a group to NASA for training. We will do more rocket stuff and talk about how big the universe is. That's a pretty big concept for them at this age," said Pierson.

Check it out

For more information or to enroll in Summer Youth Academies, visit www.nsuok.edu/ce.