University of Rochester

City Students 'Get Real' About the Science of Beach Closings in Rochester

July 16, 2009

Budding Scientists Investigate, Test Water Quality as Part of Free Environmental Camp

Thirty one Rochester middle school students, primed with secchi disks, chest-high hip waders, and GPS units, will get their feet wet this summer as they venture into the murky waters of Ontario Beach Park to find out why the beach most recently has been plagued by closures. As part of this year's weeklong Get Real! Science Action Camp, beginning July 27, the students, from The Harley School's Horizons Student Enrichment Program, a community outreach program that supports the academic success of urban students, and the Carlson MetroCenter YMCA, will pose real scientific questions and search for answers regarding the beach's water quality.

Ontario Beach has a long history of having polluted, bacteria-filled water, making the beach unfit for swimming. These budding scientists 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, dissolved oxygen, bacteria and algae, and turbidity, which refers to the murkiness and clarity of water. 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 1.

A core idea behind the Get Real! Science Camp, which was created in 2004 by April Luehmann, associate professor at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education, is that the best way to learn science is to do science.

"There has been a mismatch between how students acquire and develop scientific knowledge and understanding about the natural world and what is taught in many science classrooms," says Luehmann. "Our goal is to move the teaching of science away from merely presenting the basic scientific facts to a more effective and productive approach—scientific inquiry—that prepares students to think like scientists. We designed this camp to give students the opportunity go deeper into science—to ask questions, to make hypotheses, and to produce meaningful results. This way they learn that science is really creative, collaborative, tentative and messy—much more inviting and challenging than worksheets, packets, and memorization."

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 will be guided by 25 Warner School master's students who are studying to be teachers.

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 middle school students.

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.