University of Rochester

EVENT: Camp Experience Pairs Environmental Action with Media Savvy

July 30, 2004

Middle-school campers will investigate and test water quality at Ontario Beach and then use media tools to raise awareness of their findings at next week’s Get Real! Environmental Action Camp developed by the Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester.

Assistant professors Meg Callahan and April L. Luehmann designed the camp’s activities to help engage students in learning about real science problems and how to effectively share this knowledge with the public through persuasive techniques that saturate American culture every day. By week’s end on Aug. 6, the dozen students will have completed a scientific investigation and developed a public service announcement to be shared with the community and parents on the camp’s last day.

The Get Real! Camp was created by Luehmann last summer to enrich her graduate students’ experiences and introduce new teaching techniques. Over the past year, Callahan and Luehmann have collaborated 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 in schools. About half of the middle-school participants are from city schools and the others from suburban districts.

The beach at Lake Ontario was targeted last year and now because high bacteria counts often keep the beach closed to swimmers for up to half of the summer. The faculty members and their graduate students will be camp instructors for a wide range of scientific and literacy goals. This year, the camp is offered through Rochester Scholars Jr., a program of academic experiences in the sciences, social sciences, engineering, and humanities for middle-school students.

“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,” said Callahan. The students will meet with and question a local environmental group that will “sponsor” the PSA. They will interview people, work in the University’s multimedia center on digital equipment, and present several PSAs at a final presentation to guests and community leaders in Rush Rhees Library on the River Campus.

When day camp has ended, Warner graduate students who are studying how to integrate technology with science or English—depending on their academic tracks—have a final week of class to evaluate the science and media literacy components.

Daily photographs from the camp and entries describing activities can be found on the Warner School Web site at