Campers to learn about environmental science through local studies

Campers have been coming to the UVM Perkins Museum Environmental Science camp since 1996. Courtesy photo

This summer, campers from first through seventh grades will head out to collect data, make observations, and discover how the scientific process works. The UVM Perkins Museum’s Environmental Science Day Camp, started in 1996, will take place this year July 17-21.

Campers, led by a staff of local certified schoolteachers with help from UVM students, will spend the week on a variety of activities, often with a series of themed days. With teachers developing the curriculum each year, UVM Geoscience Educator Christine Massey notes that topics covered might include such diverse areas as fossils, macroinvertebrates, plants, and glaciers. Importantly, students get outside on field trips to experience the scientific process in action.

“We have a lot of things for the students to do with their hands,” said Massey.

“The main purpose of the whole camp is to ask a question or collect some information – basically use the scientific method,” Massey noted. With campers going out daily to pursue new questions, neither students nor teachers know what they will find. The group will “collect some information, make some observations, and then try to make sense of it.”

This uncertainty and excitement is the heart of the scientific method. “That’s exactly how science works,” said Massey. “You don’t know the answers before you start.”

The camp is an important opportunity for informal science education, which in general provides a means for the public to learn about science outside formal academic settings. “You would consider it academic, but it’s so much fun, that the kids don’t see it that way,” said Massey. “They’re having a blast and so it’s really effective way to teach science when you’re getting mucky and dirty and wet and buggy.”

Through field trips and excitement of new discoveries each day, the students can pursue scientific inquiry without the pressures normally associated with schoolwork. “I think it’s just more relaxed which I think is helpful, and accessible,” said Massey. “There’s no pressure to get a grade or get the right answer.”

The camp registration form can be found at http://www.uvm.edu/geology/geodept/daycamp/documents/registration_17.pdf.

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