Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Getting Wet and Getting Green with MC3

Sampling and measurements were very precise.

Blogger's Note: The following is information provided (at my request because I think this is a hyper-cool program) by Alana Mauger from Montgomery County Community College.

Twenty-two middle school students from the Pottstown region immersed themselves in Montgomery County Community College’s Green STEM Camp during the week of June 25 at the West Campus in Pottstown.
The location for much of the testing was in Riverfront Park,
where the Manatawny Creek empties into the  Schuylkill River.
In its second year, the Green STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – summer camp is made possible by a $10,000 grant from the TD Charitable Foundation, which is funded by TD Bank. 

The camp encourages urban youth from Pottstown to learn about science and explore high-demand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

“To understand what it is like to be a scientist, you have to emulate the environment in which a scientist works from start to end, which is what we did during this week,” said Dr. Davi Gonzales, Biology associate professor and director of the camp.

The full class in the requisite "everybody in the river!" photo.
The students learned basic concepts of the scientific method, experimental design and statistics, which they then applied to hands-on experiments throughout the week. 

Working in teams, they developed hypotheses, collected specimens, analyzed their collections in a laboratory and recorded their findings.

For example, teams collected and tested water samples from the local Manatawny Creek and Schuylkill River to investigate the impact of pollution on soil and water microbial diversity and to conduct pH and water filtration tests.

In the rapids.
On the last day of camp, students presented their results to families, instructors and TD Bank representatives during a dinner program.

“What makes this program truly unique is that it was done at a community college with middle school students within five days,” Dr. Gonzales said. 

“Usually, these types of programs are done by research universities with much older students. It proves that you can teach college-level material to younger students," he said. "We were able to do this due to the tremendous talent of the faculty and staff involved.”

This blogger's son Dylan (in the tie dye, of course) was among the
students who tested the source of our drinking water for microbes.
TheGreen STEM program was a collaborative effort of MCCC’s faculty, including Biology Associate Professor Dr. Davi Gonzales, Geology Professor Rob Kuhlman, Microbiology Instructor Dr. James Bretz, Assistant Chemistry Professor Dr. Janet Graden, Biology Instructor David Whalen, and Assistant Mathematics Professor Stephanie Isaac.

 As a parent who appreciates any program that keeps kids brains working over the summer, I must say I was impressed with the caliber of the work the students did and the professionalism, for lack of a better word, that they showed when they made their presentations to the parents.

I should also add that I was a little disappointed at the difficult time Pottstown school officials had filling the program. Parents should be breaking the doors down to get their kids into this program. I wish more had. Remember, IT'S FREE!

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