Hundreds of Pennsylvania middle schoolers are wrapping up a “Summer of Innovation.” Project director Dr. David Morgan, with the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU), says they were one of only nine organizations, nationwide, selected to receive NASA grant funding for the Summer of Innovation (SOI) camps: “To encourage students to get engaged in STEM careers: science, technology, engineering and math; because our country, to continue its competitive edge, needs to have its students involved in those kinds of careers.”
CCIU is partnering with Immaculata University, Bucknell University, Lycoming College and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg to bring ‘out-of-this-world’ science to 2,000 students in 20-school districts, and two cyber charter schools, throughout the state. “Everything’s hands on, and they are activities selected from NASA, which are considered to be best practice,” says Morgan. This is the first year of the four year program, and Morgan says the 20-participating school districts will be with them for the duration.
SOI isn’t the only summer camp getting students excited about science this summer. At Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, the Women Empowered By Science (WEBS) program is focused on girls entering the seventh and eighth grades. “We’re choosing this age because they still are excited, they still want to investigate and they still have the joy of learning. We can play off of that, put them in our labs and – in a very fun way – continue the learning process,” says WEBS coordinator Debbie Chapman. The two-week WEBS summer camp at Wilkes University is funded by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
The girls have been doing everything from dissecting frogs, to programming robots to dance. Soon-to-be seventh grader Meghan Cook enjoyed the pharmacy lab the best. “I think I want to be a pharmacist because they’re the ones making the new medicines. I want to make a new allergy medicine for my mom, because she has lots of allergies,” Meghan says. “I loved what we did the past two weeks,” adds fellow WEBS camper Gabriella McElhattan.
The WEBS camp started out with 15-students, before doubling to 30 last year and 60 this year. “We’re happy to have 120 [next year],” Chapman says. “Just working on word of mouth I think we’re going to be able to achieve that goal.”