Nearly 90 first through eighth graders wrapped up a six-week science summer camp on Aug. 8 that was piloted by three Hazelwood organizations based at the Center of Life, the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences and the School of Education.
Dr. John Pollock, associate professor of biological sciences, who targets health literacy for adults and children through multimedia planetarium and TV shows, computer games and websites, had wanted to create a camp that would offer urban students fun experiences based on science. This year, the Center of Life, a longtime Duquesne partner, moved forward with the idea.
In addition to bringing science literacy to students and exposing them to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines, the camp provided the opportunity for Duquesne students to communicate with the public about science.
Four graduate and undergraduate students of Pollock and biology colleague Dr. Sarah Woodley, plus a student funded through the School of Education’s Leading Teacher Program in Urban Education as a component of the Barbara A. Sizemore Urban Initiative, worked with Dr. David Somers, director of operations and education at Hazelwood’s Center of Life, and Pastor Tim Smith, executive director of the Center of Life. Additional support came from grants to Pollock, including funds from Urban Innovation 21 and Planet Earth Television as part of his Scientastic! project, among others.
The students led the science summer camp two mornings a week and supervised field trips to sites such as the National Aviary, Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, and the Carnegie Science Center, where they watched two of Pollock’s planetarium shows. Camp activities included hands-on experiments with microscopes and interactive demonstrations focused on the eyes, ears and heart.
“The goals were for all of the kids to get accustomed to the idea of using notebooks and making observations, with notes and drawings,” Pollock said. “At the end of the six weeks, on their own or in groups, I wanted them to come up with what they wanted others to learn, to shepherd the creative process to share with others.”
Many from Duquesne and Hazelwood were involved “because they know that getting a good science experience for kids early on can have a long-lasting effect,” Pollock said.
The activities contributed to the best-attended summer camp in the Center of Life’s history, said Smith. Besides enriching the children, the emphasis on science gave insights to the organization, which hopes to incorporate more science-based activities into its yearlong tutoring program.
“It helped us identify where young people were in their understanding of natural science and helped us to really look at kids who have an aptitude in that area,” said Smith, who praised the work of the Duquesne students. “They did a great job with the kids, they were enthusiastic, prepared, and they made science with the kids fun and age-appropriate.”
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