KOKOMO, Ind. — At most summer camps, the campers worry about weather because rain and clouds mean no swimming, and limited outdoor activities.
At the Indiana University Kokomo Science Rocks! camp, students cross their fingers for clear skies and no rain so they see Jupiter.
Studies of the stars and planets were just one of the lessons learned at the annual camp, which promotes interest in science among middle school students.
“There is a trend for students that age to lose their prior interest in science,” said Patrick Motl, associate dean of the School of Sciences. “Our hope is with encouragement and fun activities, they can persevere with a passion for science into their high school years and beyond.”
The camp is unique because of the variety of science topics campers experience, including ecology, biology, chemistry, microbiology, geology, health sciences, and astronomy, drawing on the expertise of IU Kokomo’s faculty.
It included a field trip to the Kokomo Wastewater Treatment Plant, studies in ecosystem health and water quality, human physiology, nutrition, and astronomy. Students also learned how scientists work in the field, gathering bacteria samples and water samples, and wading into a stream to stir up the water and collect invertebrates through kick-netting.
For Tori Closson, a Northwestern Middle School student, it’s a chance to meet people her age who share her interest in science.
“We get to try some advanced stuff we don’t get to do at school,” she said. “It’s amazing that we get to have a telescope too.”
Most of the camp was during the daytime, over an eight-day period, but campers returned two evenings, gathering in the cool grass just outside the Observatory, looking for just the right place to see Jupiter through the telescopes each one received.
Tori and new friend Emily Griggs, who will be a freshman at Kokomo High School, knelt by their telescopes, bending over to peer through the eyepieces, and helping each other make adjustments for a good look.
Emily discovered an interest in biology during her eighth grade year, and was happy for the hands-on learning activities, especially when they collected bacteria samples examined them under a microscope.
Brenna Morrow, Northwestern Middle School; and Anjili Sood, Central Middle School, were among several campers attending for a second year.
Brenna wants to design zoo habitats for her career, and was excited to learn more about science. She liked building a filter to clean debris from water with Angili.
“Last year, my group failed, but this year, we learned from that and did better,” she said.
Anjili could not pick just one activity she liked best. “I like everything about camp,” she said. “Everything is my favorite.”
IU Kokomo student Megan Moss and recent graduate Brandon Wysong assisted faculty as camp counselors.
Megan also experienced the camp as a parent — her son, Eastern Middle School sixth-grader Dagon Gamblin was among the campers.
“It’s important to get them interested in science at this age,” she said. “They get to do a lot of work that other students won’t even do in high school. It’s just planting that seed of interest in their minds, and hopefully they stick with it.”
Additional students attending were Rickie Featherstone, Lafayette Park Middle School; Benjamin Batis and Brennon Soper, Northwestern Elementary, and Nathan Rush, Eastern Middle School.
Science Rocks! was funded with a grant from the North Central Indiana Areas Health Education Center.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.