Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Campers not only play in the water at this camp — they check it out under a microscope.

Science Rocks Summer CampScience Rocks! summer science camp. See more pictures on Flickr.

Nearly 20 area middle schools students tested water samples for pollutants, studied the stars through telescopes, experienced the impact of exercise with heart rate monitors, detected bacteria on common surfaces, and learned first aid, all at the annual Indiana University Kokomo Science Rocks! summer camp.

For Noah Gallaher, who will be a freshman at Kokomo High School in August, the free camp has become an annual tradition. He's attended three of the six years the campus has offered it, and says he learns something new each time.

"This year I gained a new fascination with astronomy," he said. "I like learning. I get to do neat stuff here I don't get to do in other places."

IU Kokomo faculty lead sessions in geology, chemistry, astronomy, physiology, microbiology, and health sciences during the eight-day camp, to inspire future scientists like Gallaher, 15, who plans to be a cardiologist or a dentist.

"Our goal is to get kids interested in sciences, so they will consider it as a career, and possibly earn their degrees here," said Christian Chauret, dean of the School of Sciences. "We explore a wide variety of scientific fields, allowing them to experience what our students do in the labs, and showing them the opportunity available to earn a degree in the sciences at IU Kokomo."

On this particular day, the students, who represented Central, Eastern, Lewis Cass, Maconaquah, Maple Crest, Northwestern, Taylor, and Western middle schools, use cotton swabs to collect samples from their hands, the floor, doorknobs, faucets, and other surfaces around campus. They prepare their findings on slides and peer at them under microscopes in a Hunt Hall laboratory.

Chauret moves through the lab, adjusting slides and looking at the samples, directing the lab coated middle schoolers to those with particularly good samples. They talk about what they've seen, and draw pictures on the white board at the front of the room.

For Fatima Knox, a Western Middle School seventh grader, using the microscopes is the best part of the camp. She was surprised to learn she liked science when she attended the camp in 2013.

"I didn't like science before, and my mom told me I should try it," she said. "I wanted to come back, because I had fun last year. It's a great way to meet other people who like science."

Eastern seventh grader Brandon Cobb enjoyed building an aquifer during the geology and chemistry sessions, and looked forward to learning about health sciences.

"I want to be an asthma specialist," he said. "I thought because this includes health, it would be really interesting."

The field trip to the Kokomo Wastewater Treatment Plant was the best part of camp, according to Cameryn Stewart.

"I learned that insects like to eat the sludge," the Western Middle School sixth grader said, adding that she was surprised by how interesting it was to visit the treatment plant.

She's considering a career as a biologist, and recommends the camp to other students interested in science.

"You get more into science, and learn how the body works, and about plants and animals, and how we live."

The camp was funded by a grant from the North Central Indiana Areas Health Education Center.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.