University of Rochester

Freedom School Students Merge Science, Literacy at Get Real! Camp

July 17, 2008

Students Investigate Ontario Waters at Free Camp Beginning July 28

Thirty-five middle school students from Rochester's Freedom School, a literacy school offering summer school classes to children in distressed neighborhoods, will have the opportunity to conduct hands-on science investigations to answer real environmental problems in their hometown area. With the City of Rochester opening Ontario Beach Park to legal swimming this summer, the water quality there will be the focus of this year's Get Real! Science Action Camp.

Ontario Beach has a long history of bacteria-filled water, preventing swimmers from jumping in, and these local middle students will try to find out why. Students from the Freedom School will work as water quality scientists this summer as they test the water for bacteria to determine whether or not Ontario Park Beach is really safe for swimming and then create multimedia presentations to share their findings with the community on the camp's last day, August 8.

The Get Real! Science Action Camp was created by April Luehmann, assistant professor at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education, to enrich graduate students' experiences and introduce new teaching techniques. The camp will be guided by 14 Warner School graduate students, who are studying to be teachers, and will include 35 middle school students from the Freedom School, making this year's camp the largest ever since its inception.

"Middle school students will have the opportunity to not only become water quality scientists, but also to tap into a different way of thinking and exploring the tactile nature of science," said Michael Occhino, a Warner School doctoral student who is directing this year's Get Real! Camp. "In just one week, students will discover how science is important in everyday life by engaging in authentic, inquiry-based investigations about real science problems and using persuasive media techniques, which are not often found in their classrooms, to advocate for change that we as a community can make collectively to alleviate pollution."

Wearing chest-high hip waders and using secchi disks, middle school campers will work during the morning sessions to collect water samples at the lakeshore and then test them in laboratories on the University of Rochester's campus. At the camp's final session on August 8, middle school students will present facts and data about the water quality to guests and community leaders at the Freedom School, determine why Ontario Beach is sometimes unfit for swimming, and share any recommendations for improving the current beach conditions.

Freedom School middle school students are not the only ones who will benefit from this one-week adventure. Equally important, the Get Real! Camp allows Warner graduate students to experience what it truly means to teach. This project gives graduate students a chance to learn new teaching techniques by using literacy-rich instructional experiences to enhance science learning for urban middle school students.

The camp is part of the larger Get Real! Science Project, a teacher preparation program designed to engage students in real 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 camp and entries describing activities can be viewed on the Get Real! Science Web site at www.rochester.edu/warner/getreal.

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.




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