Exploring Science in Summer Camp
For over five years, the WROF, Inc. has helped students and teachers from underserved rural high schools in Wisconsin gain real-life
hands-on RESEARCH experience. At the same time, these folks share this time on the UW-Madison campus - a place that can seem "big" for them. The Morgridge Institute - named for major donors John and Tashia Morgridge - is a public-private partnership and home of the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery where students and teachers explore science through the expertise of top scientists, graduate and undergraduate students at the Rural High School Summer Science Camp. The week-long summer sessions give
students and teachers a glimpse into the many opportunities science presents, that might not have been available to them in their rural hometowns. High schools in rural Wisconsin can apply to participate in the program once every five years. Once accepted, the teachers are invited to bring up to five students with them. Thanks to supporters like the WROF, Inc., the costs for the on-campus stay and access to scientific instructions are completely covered.
This summer, camp participants observed two different breast cancer cells and learned about T cells and the effects of chemotherapy. Using the latest technology and tools, teachers and students saw how two substances can
affect a human's heart rate by using derived heart stem cells. Their discussions included the moral obligations of CRISPR and its effects on the future. Placing importance on communication skills, the visitors learned how outreach and community involvement are achieved by sharing science simply and effectively.
Most of the students and teachers had a long trip to Madison. After a four-hour drive, Paige, Morgan, and Matthew arrived from Birchwood, in Wisconsin. Out of a class of twenty, all three are going to be sophomores next year at Birchwood High School. One thing for sure that Paige (pictured at left) learned about was taking risks, starting with the decision of attending the camp. "I wasn't exactly sure about going to this camp," says
"I had second thoughts, but I figured it'll present new chances to learn new things, science-wise." Paige was glad she made the decision to attend camp. She also learned that science is not perfect. Scientists can and do make mistakes - something she had never imagined. At one of their labs, their instructor advised them of the time he redid an experiment
five times. While she is not certain if science is in her future, the camp opened her eyes to the vast amount of opportunities science has in the many different fields it holds.
Morgan's favorite part about camp was being at UW-Madison. She has always thought of going to UW-Madison, so this visit gave her a chance to see what it would be like to live on campus. With Algebra as her favorite subject, Morgan (pictured above, at right) was amazed to learn at the camp that science is more
than conducting experiments, and it can involve other fields, such as computer science.
Matthew, too, was astonished to learn that not everything in science is going to be successful. "Scientists really have to do more than one trial because 90% of them fail," says Matthew. After attending the camp, Matthew is now determined to pursue science in his future. "This was an exciting way to learn what I really want to do," Matthew
concludes. "There is a lot of science out there to pursue."
Katerr and Eliza will both be juniors next year at Siren High School, in Siren, Wisconsin (population of 828). They both found the camp incredibly inspiring, in different ways. Getting to see science up close has made Katerr (pictured on the left) want to learn more. Because of this camp, she's decided that she wants to work on cancer cells in the future. With English as her favorite subject, meeting the people and scientists was meaningful to Eliza
(pictured on the right).
"My favorite part was talking to the different people and scientists that work here to see what they are passionate about and why they want to be scientists," says Eliza. Attending the camp has made Eliza want to attend a bigger school. Siren High School is a small school, and Eliza feels that a bigger school will have more options. The
camp has also helped Eliza realize that she doesn't want to be a scientist, but rather a psychologist.
The UW-Madison student interns played an important role in making sure the camp attendees were receiving the full experience. Says Jessica, one of the interns, "Coming from a rural town, it is important for the high school students to get hands-on experience to immerse themselves in niche topics in science
so they can figure out what they really like because there are so many different pathways to follow." The interns were excited to share with their guests the many other options available outside the biology and chemistry classes available in high school.
Marcy Heim, WROF, Inc. Executive Director, said that she originally promoted supporting this program to increase science literacy in young people. "This experience inspires young people to question and reflect on what is stated in the media as 'research-findings'," says Marcy. "They learn it is an ongoing
process that can have mixed and changing results as we learn more."
After a full week, the campers embarked on their long rides back home, no doubt filled with new knowledge and insight, newly focused goals, and much inspiration.
Thank you for making this possible for underserved students from rural Wisconsin.
Invest in Wisconsin's bright futures today by making a gift to the WROF, Inc.
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