Students Tackle Lake Ontario Beach Closings

The Get Real! Science Action Camp will keep Rochester-area middle school students learning about science through hands-on experiments of water quality issues during summer vacation. Wearing hip-waders, 45 middle school students from Rochester's Freedom School, a literacy school offering summer school classes to children in distressed neighborhoods, will embark on real scientific investigations that will unveil answers to Lake Ontario's water quality issues as part of the week-long camp, beginning July 26, put on by the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education.

Created seven years ago by April Luehmann, associate professor at the Warner School, the program is aimed at showing students that science is more than memorizing the facts. It gives seventh- through ninth-grade students a chance to see that science is creative and to experience science first-hand.

"One hundred percent of the kids leave the camp learning about science by doing science, plus it makes science fun," says Michael Occhino, a Warner School doctoral student directing this year's camp. "This experience learning science is very different from what students are used to in the classroom because they get to define the specific question that gets studied, the protocol they follow to do the investigation, and the primary implications for their community. Science could not get more real."

Ontario Beach has been closed due to high bacteria counts and lack of water clarity, making the beach unfit for swimming. Last year, the beach had its highest closure since 1992 and was open for swimming fewer days than it was closed. The beach has been declared off-limits to swimmers again this year.

The students will spend two days at the lakeshore collecting water samples and will then perform several tests in laboratories on the University of Rochester's River Campus to determine water quality variables like pH balance, dissolved oxygen levels, bacteria and algae, temperature, and turbidity. They will then present their findings about the water quality to the community and share recommendations for improving the current beach conditions on the camp's last day, August 2, at the Freedom School.

The Get Real! Science Camp is part of the larger Get Real! Science Project, a teacher preparation program designed to engage students in real science. The camp, which will be guided by 12 Warner School master's students, also supports beginning science teachers in learning a radically different approach to teaching. The graduate students will have an opportunity to hone their skills as science educators as they gain hands-on experience teaching inquiry-based science.

The Get Real! Science Project is grounded in authentic experiences that include the summer Get Real! Science Action Camp, Science STARS (Students Tackling Authentic and Relevant Science) program, and more. Daily photographs from the Get Real! Science Camp and blog entries describing activities can be viewed on the Get Real! Science Web site at

About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education offers master's and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, counseling, human development, and educational policy. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its Ed.D. programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform.