Camps Build Confidence and Sharpen Minds

There are fun and games, sure, but campers learn too. From sandy beaches to chemistry labs, they explore, question, test and prod, both individually and with friends and mentors.
There are fun and games, sure, but campers learn too. From sandy beaches to chemistry labs, they explore, question, test and prod, both individually and with friends and mentors.

By Lee Anna Sherman 

From Corvallis labs to Newport tidepools to Salem campgrounds, OSU experts are challenging K-12 kids to stretch their thinking and deepen their understanding of the natural and built environments. This summer, hundreds of Oregon children are limbering up their synapses in subjects as diverse as math and fine arts, engineering and journalism. They’re building brain power in chemistry, physics, life science and ecology. And they’re apprenticing with real scientists on authentic investigations across the sciences.

These summer challenges are more than warm-weather diversions. They change lives. OSU students Coralie Backlund and Paul Dornath gained confidence in their teaching skills. Laura Magana solidified her ethnic identity and found her voice at a 4-H summer camp for Latino youths. For Christa Rose, a series of engineering camps revealed a career path she might never have found. (See Terra Up-Close for the stories of these outstanding students.)

Christa Rose: In Her Own Words

“I didn’t think that I was smart enough or nerdy enough to be an engineer. But these camps changed my outlook. . . .”

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Here are a few highlights.

  • Habitat Hunt – Kids ages 10 to 12 are learning firsthand how coastal organisms interact for mutual survival. Symbiotic relationships in various marine habitats is the focus of this camp. From their base at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, campers travel to estuaries, beaches and tidepools, capping their learning adventure with a Marine Discovery Tours “Sea Life Cruise.” In other marine-science camps, students are investigating crustaceans, building habitats in a wet lab, taking kayak excursions, and collecting plankton. (Sponsored by Oregon Sea Grant.)
  • Summer Experience in Science and Engineering for Youth – High school girls and ethnic minority students are paired with faculty engineers for a mini-research project, digging into areas such as micro-scale technologies, plastics recycling, drug formulation and delivery, bio-processing, microelectronics and environmental engineering. (Sponsored by OSU’s School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering.)
  • Apprenticeships in Science & Engineering – High school freshmen, sophomores and juniors are matched with an engineer or scientist for an eight-week authentic laboratory experience. Students work on projects such as: Helping scientists understand chemical risks to humans and wildlife using zebrafish models; collaborating with community-based agencies to collect and analyze data from survivors of intimate partner violence; and studying how fluid boils and moves in micro-channels using a high-speed video camera. (Sponsored by Saturday Academy.)

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Family photos aren’t unusual in an office, but Skip Rochefort’s “family” is larger than most.

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  • Latino Summer Camps – Kids in grades 3 through 12 are engaged in eye-opening experiences in environmental science, engineering, natural resources and technology. They’re meeting successful Latino professionals – hearing their personal stories and asking them questions. They’re learning about financial support for college-bound youth and how to access resources for higher education. (Sponsored by 4-H at OSU.)
  • Newspaper Institute for Minority High School Students – Budding journalists of color are creating a print and online newspaper from start to finish, working with professionals in the field. They’re learning the value of making a difference by covering multiple perspectives in the news. (Co-hosted by OSU and The Oregonian and funded by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.)
  • Young Entrepreneurs Business Week – High-schoolers are receiving college credit during this one-week camp that challenges them to set value-centered goals and discover their business potential. They are hearing from successful entrepreneurs and top executives. They are learning about financial literacy, teamwork, business plans and marketing. (Held in partnership with the Austin Entrepreneurship Program in the College of Business.)