Archive for Thursday, June 26, 2003

Budding scientists give up pool time to study at special Shawnee camp

June 26, 2003

A group of young researchers this week studied the ecological pitfalls of oil spills and coal mining and got a jump-start on conducting experiments and tackling environmental issues that continue to affect the planet.

The scientists, a group of seven- to 11-year-old Shawnee students, also learned about molecules, grew crystals, made sidewalk chalk and studied insects and flowers during the week-long science camp at the Shawnee Civic Center.

"The goal is to get each of the kids excited about science," said camp instructor Tammy Whitlow. "If everyone actually gets involved and is having fun, then the learning becomes fun."

Whitlow demonstrated a way to grow crystals using charcoal, water, salt and ammonia and showed how devastating coal mining can be through an experiment that involved excavating chocolate chips from cookies in a manner similar to ways paleontologists scavenge the earth. Each of the students took a hands-on approach to the camp and conducted or participated in every experiment.

"I decided to come because I wanted to learn more about science," said George Berberick, 8. "I really like growing crystals, because I like money and I was thinking if I got good at it I could see them."

Natalie Gonzales, who attends school with George at St. Joseph's Grade School, said she enrolled in the class because she wanted try different scientific experiments.

"When I was little, I used to try to do experiments and make new kinds of perfume," Natalie said. "So my mom said this would be a good idea because I could do all types of experiments."

Many of the students said they got more out of the camp and appreciated the experiments because Whitlow presented the material in a manner that was easy to understand and fun.

"The best part for me is the teacher, she is nice and fun," said Olivia Flora, a seven-year-old who attends Riverview Elementary School. "And, the crystals sounded neat to me."

Many of the students could have opted to spend the week at the pool or

playing video games, but these budding scientists said they wanted a break from the norm and were enticed by the possibility of performing real experiments.

"I have been playing outside a lot lately," said Joey Rebori, 11. "But I talked to my mom and decided it would be fun doing different experiments."

By the time the last experiment has been conducted and the crystals have matured Friday, Whitlow said she hopes that the young students will have a greater appreciation for the world around them and a greater understanding of the scientific realm.

"This is something that really you can't read about or hear about," Whitlow said. "You really have to get involved and do it yourself and that is when it becomes fun."

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