University of Rochester

Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Warner camp engages kids in science

A day at the beach took on a whole new meaning for middle school students participating in the Warner School's Get Real! Environmental Action Camp. The weeklong experience kicked off August 1 at Ontario Beach, where students collected water samples for later lab analysis. By week's end, the dozen scientific sleuths had used the results to create multimedia public service announcements to share with the community and parents on the camp's last day.

The program offers students from both the city and suburban school districts the opportunity to use scientific methods to examine real-world issues, specifically the high bacteria counts that plague Ontario Beach during the summer, often resulting in beach closures for swimmers. The teens analyzed the samples they collected at the beach in a biology lab in Hutchison Hall with the assistance of professors and graduate students. With results in hand, the group was off to the Educational Technology Center in Rush Rhees Library where they used digital equipment to produce public service announcements designed to explain findings as well as raise awareness of environmental issues affecting Ontario Beach water quality.

"This is an exercise, in part, to teach them how to be better consumers of media and to take the media into their own hands," says Assistant Professor Meg Callahan, who, along with Assistant Professor April Luehmann, designed the camp's activities.

Luehmann, who launched the program in summer 2003 to enrich her graduate students' experiences and introduce new teaching techniques, worked with Callahan to add the media literacy component to the class, both to enhance the English education candidates' experiences in the teacher education program and to demonstrate how subjects like science and English can be integrated into school curriculums.

The camp is one component of a 15-month science teacher preparation graduate program that focuses on inquiry-based techniques. To learn more about the Get Real! Science initiative, visit

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