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EAC hosts Summer Science Camps at Discovery Park Campus

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EAC hosts Summer Science Camps at Discovery Park Campus

By Lori Dugan

Thatcher, AZ—The Eastern Arizona Science Initiative (EASI) held its 4th annual EASI Summer Science Camps, hosted by EAC’s Discovery Park Campus, and welcomed over 70 students from schools in Graham and Greenlee Counties. The Camps were designed to give students with an interest or aptitude for science the opportunity to participate in fun, hands-on activities, with knowledgeable instructors, to enhance their learning and understanding in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). “We also hope to inspire these special students to participate in higher level math and science courses in college, and ultimately pursue careers in science,” said Paul R. Anger, EAC’s Discovery Park campus director and director of the EASI Summer Science Camps.

This year’s Camps were divided into two sessions. The first session was specifically designed for students entering 6th and 7th grades, and the second session was geared toward students entering 8th grade or high school.

Participation in one of the camps included a light breakfast and a sack lunch which was provided through the Safford School District’s Summer Meals Program, directed by Mr. Jon Walker.

The kids also participated in a variety of activities and experiments involving all three of the sciences; Earth, life, and physical. Duncan High School science instructor, Ms. Becky Bell, taught a physics lesson about heat energy in a very fun way with, “The Science/Math of Homemade Ice Cream.” This class was especially enjoyed by the afternoon classes.

Mrs. Heather Dillman, of the Ft. Thomas School District, and Mrs. Krisin Jackson, of Bowie Elementary School, worked with the students while Safford Police Officer Luke Arbizo explained the science behind “Fingerprinting.” Many of the students were surprised by the intricate whorls and loops found in their own fingerprints, and enjoyed comparing them with each other.

Safford Middle School science teacher, Mrs. Debbie Pearson, shared several exciting “Chemistry” experiments including physical and chemical reactions with styrofoam and even making fire by mixing two common chemicals!

Mrs. Cindy Pearson and Mrs. Lori Knight shared an important lesson with a fun, messy activity on “Point and Non-Point Pollution,” where students learned the importance of keeping our groundwater clean. EAC anatomy instructor, Mrs. Tammy Gillespie, took students on a walk around Discovery Park Campus to learn and identify native plants, and to identify evidence of the variety of desert animals found there.

Mr. John Ratje, director of the Mt. Graham International Observatory, shared a fun PowerPoint and had the students participate in a competition to build a free standing tower during his class on “Engineering.” Ratje explained the various types of engineering degrees that are available, and the kinds of careers those degrees can provide.

Mr. Erik Hanchett, Safford Middle School science teacher, and Mr. Bill Brandau, Director of the U of A Graham County Extension Office and Chair of the Gila Valley Watershed Partnership, took groups of students on day-trips to DPC Pond, Roper Lake State Park, and Bonita Creek in the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area, for water quality tests and observation of aquatic and riparian area wildlife. Several students were able to meet and talk with biologists in the field to discuss natural resources and careers opportunities.

Students in the 8th grade through high school Camp also participated in an activity following the DNA trail of the historical Russian Tzar Ronanov’s mysterious daughter, Anastasia. Students were taught the usefulness of DNA evidence and even extracted DNA from strawberries using basic scientific methods. They were also treated to a “Rocketry” class with Ratje, who is also an EAC rocketry physics instructor, where the students fabricated “Air-powered” rockets using the physics principles and structural designs learned during class. The students then participated in a competition to see whose rocket design would go the highest and furthest.

“The finale and highlight of both of the Camps are the ‘astronomy evenings’ held at the Discovery Park Campus Ranch House,” said Anger. “Students viewed a specially prepared PowerPoint presentation on the wonders of the Universe, and took part in a detailed question and answer session with Discovery Park’s 20” Telescope Operator and Desert Skygazer Astronomy Club member, Mrs. Tracy Beuden. Afterward the students enjoyed a delicious pizza dinner, while they learned about the opportunities in participating in the exciting ‘First Lego’s League,’ an international competition for elementary and middle school teams to design and program robots to perform specific activities.”

The students then received fun, science related prizes in a raffle before going outside under the stars to learn about the history of the ancient constellations with Mrs. Loralynn Allen. Time was also set aside to view Mars, Saturn and its rings, and several beautiful stars through powerful telescopes operated by Beuden and the Desert Skygazers Astronomy Club President, Bob Hiatt.

Anger says, “The Camps are an opportunity for the sharpest student minds in Eastern Arizona to meet and learn from enthusiastic and knowledgeable educators and community members from a variety of science and business backgrounds, who have come together with a common goal of improving the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education in Eastern Arizona.”

Anger went on to say, “Our youth are definitely our greatest natural resource, and we have gathered the best individuals from all over Eastern Arizona to create the greatest collaboration of educators, administrators, business people, and community members, to teach and help prepare the amazing youth of Eastern Arizona for a successful future.”

EASI is supported by a lot of great people and organizations. “Once again, I want to give my sincere thanks to those who made the 2012 EASI Summer Science Camps such a great success,” said Anger. “To Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Foundation for their financial support through the Graham County Community Improvement Fund Grant, the United Way for grants from the wonderful FMI employees, the U of A Graham County Extension Office staff and instructors, Roper Lake State Park, Safford Schools Summer Meals program, BLM staff, and those wonderful teachers from all over Eastern Arizona who shared their time and talents to teach these amazing youth. Your assistance helped to make this year’s Summer Science Camps successful.”

Leisel Griffin, participant from Thatcher School District said of the Camp, “It was amazing. Everything was fun. The instructors were great. I love Science Camp.”

Returning Camp participant Jessica DeSpain commented that, “It was great and I learned a lot from all the activities we did.”

First-time participant Jazmine Vertrees said, “You guys make it (learning science) great and fun.”

When asked which was her favorite activity, Linzi Thorpe answered, “I love them all, and the teachers!”

Anger also reported, “We are very pleased with the results of this year’s camps; our end-of-camp Student Satisfaction Surveys were overwhelmingly positive. The instructors love what they are sharing and their enthusiasm is easily passed on to the students. This level of enthusiasm reflects the quality of the instructors and the lessons that were offered, and of the students themselves who chose to attend the Camp.”

The Eastern Arizona Science Initiative (EASI) is a collaboration of individuals from throughout Eastern Arizona, including local educators, administrators, and community members who have a united goal of attracting students to science in the hopes of motivating them to seek advanced college courses and careers in science. EASI also sponsors the annual Eastern Arizona Regional Science Fair, and quarterly workshops for Teacher Professional Development, all hosted by the EAC Discovery Park Campus. Please support your students and their teachers by encouraging their participation in these events and activities shared by the Eastern Arizona Science Initiative (EASI).