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Young scientists gain hands-on knowledge at Science Rocks!

June 17, 2016

KOKOMO, Ind. —Tye’mon Corbin and Nathan Adams aren’t just splashing in the creek to cool off on a hot summer day.

They are kick netting, learning about the macro invertebrates that live in it.

The boys, both sixth graders, are among the nearly 20 middle school students participating in Science Rocks!, Indiana University Kokomo’s annual eight-day summer science camp.

IU Kokomo faculty lead sessions in geology, chemistry, astronomy, physiology, microbiology, and health sciences during the eight-day camp, to inspire future scientists like seventh grader Brayden Shoaff.

“When I have questions, I don’t usually have answers,” he said. “I came here to get answers to my questions. I like the experimenting we get to do.”

Christian Chauret, dean of the School of Sciences, said faculty want to encourage students to consider careers in science while they are young, and have time to take as many classes in that field as possible in high school.

“We hope they will consider studying science in college, and let them know what kinds of careers they could have with a degree in science,” he said. “We want them to have an interest and understanding of science, and what it is about, and to see what it is like to be a student in our program.”

Students were especially impressed to investigate why the creek water was blue-tinged when they took samples with Leda Casey, senior lecturer of geology, and Marcia Gillette, adjunct lecturer of chemistry, during the second day of the camp. Testing revealed it was potentially a type of fertilizer in the water.
“I am most interested in chemistry and microbiology, and it was interesting to use those to figure out an answer,” said Corbin.

Students returned to the creek a few days later with Lina Rifai, associate professor of vertebrate biology and anatomy, to see what lives in it. They donned rubber boots and gloves and walked in, carrying two poles with a fine yellow mesh screen between them. They set it down in the water, weighting it with stones, and then began kicking downstream into the net, to see what kinds of invertebrates they could catch.

After a few minutes they gently lifted the screen out of the water and laid it on the grass nearby, and began sorting out anything that moved into ice cube trays. Students used charts with pictures of invertebrates to identify what they had found, and took an inventory before returning everything to the creek.

Talon Morgan, a sixth grader, found lessons in ecology especially interesting.

“I like how we were learning about nature, and how what we do can affect nature, even though we don’t think it will,” he said.

Eighth grader Elizabeth Breedlove was a second-time camp attender.

“I like meeting kids my age who share my interest in science,” she said. “I like to do experiments. This place does a lot of experiments.”

The free camp also included a field trip to the Kokomo Wastewater Treatment Plant, studies in ecosystem health and water quality, human physiology, nutrition, and astronomy, and ending with launching rockets the students built.

Science Rocks! was funded with a grant from the North Central Indiana Areas Health Education Center. Participating students included Nathan Adams, Elizabeth Breedlove, Tre’mon Corbin, Emma Hall, Brayden Shoaff, and Anjili Sood, Central Middle School; Ariel Arnett, Talon Morgan, Magnolia Pruitt, Nathan Rush, and Cynthia Wilson, Eastern Middle School; Breann Gallaher, Maple Crest Middle School; Katka Grube and Emily Pickard, Sts. Joan of Arc and Patrick School; Brenna Morrow, Northwestern Middle School, and Anna Schultz-Finkler, Howard Elementary.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 06/17/2016