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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 5th 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.

The students participated in a variety of activities and experiments involving all three of the sciences: Earth, life, and physical.

U of A Graham County Extension Office instructor Cindy Pearson helped students investigate several experiments including the mysteries of air pressure, solubility of oils and water, tension, and the secret strength of the common egg. Duncan High School science instructor Becky Bell shared a “CSI” type activity where students examined physical evidence from a crime scene to determine “who dunnit.” Safford Middle School science teacher Debbie Pearson shared two activities, one required the students to fabricate an operating robotic arm similar to those used on space craft for repairs and maintenance, the second activity involved creating a “coring” machine to extract a core sample from a potato using straws, popsicle sticks, and rubber bands. “This turned out to be an exciting competition to see who could extract the longest sample intact,” observed Anger.

EAC anatomy and physiology instructor, Tammy Gillespie, was on hand at camp dissecting frogs and comparing their anatomical features to that of human beings. Thatcher Elementary School teacher, Tawnie Anger, presented an activity on roller coasters to identify and explain velocity, friction, and potential and kinetic energy. This activity turned into quite a competition to see who could create a “roller coaster” with the most loops and turns that a marble could safely travel.

EAC dean of instruction and Thatcher High School chemistry instructor, Dr. Phil McBride, shared several activities demonstrating the principles of air pressure with “Alka-Seltzer” rockets, how to hold a bottle of water upside down, and demonstrating, through chemical reaction, how to “change” a common penny into “gold” and “silver.” Another demonstration included having students create their own “squiggys,” a fun experiment using a plastic bottle and a fishing lure that can rise or fall simply by squeezing the bottle to demonstrate the principle of buoyancy.

A yearly favorite of many students are the day-trips to the Discovery Park Campus 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 with Show Low High School science instructor, Erik Hanchett, and Bill Brandau, director of the U of A Graham County Extension Office. “The students used hand-held electronic equipment and fish traps to examine and identify native and invasive fish and other aquatic life found in the lakes and streams, and they have the opportunity to meet and talk with biologists in the field to discuss natural resources and learn more about their job descriptions and future career opportunities,” said Anger.

The finale and highlight of the Camps are the “astronomy evenings” held at the Discovery Park Campus Ranch House. Students enjoyed a pizza dinner while they shared their experiences at Camp, and then viewed a specially prepared presentation on the wonders of the Universe, and took part in a detailed question and answer session with Discovery Park Campus’ 20” telescope operator and Desert Skygazer Astronomy Club member, Tracy Beuden. The students then received science-related prizes in a raffle before going outside under the stars to learn about the history of the ancient constellations from Loralynn Allen. Time was also set aside to view Mars, Saturn and its rings, and several beautiful stars through powerful telescopes operated by current MGIO director, Craig Nance; retired MGIO director, John Ratje; and DPC 20” telescope operator and Desert Skygazer Astronomy Club president, Mr. Bob Hiat.

“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,” said Anger. “Our youth are our most important 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 these amazing youth for a successful future.”

EASI is supported by several organizations and individuals. “We sincerely appreciate those who helped make the 2013 EASI Summer Science Camps such a great success,” said Anger. “Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Foundation for their financial support through the Valley of the Sun United Way, the United Way 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, and those wonderful teachers from all over eastern Arizona who shared their time and talents to teach these incredible youth. Their assistance helped to make this year’s Summer Science Camps so successful.”

“As in the previous four years, we are very pleased with the results of this year’s camps. The pre and post tests showed a tremendous leap in subject retention and understanding, and our end-of-camp Student Satisfaction Surveys were overwhelmingly positive,” said Anger. “The instructors love what they are sharing, and their enthusiasm is easily passed on to the students. The level of retention and enthusiasm displayed reflects the quality of the instructors and the lessons that they shared, and of the quality of students themselves who chose to attend the Camp.”

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 the events and activities shared by the Eastern Arizona Science Initiative (EASI).