University of Rochester

Closed Again? A Camp Gets Kids Investigating Charlotte Beach Woes

August 1, 2003

A new camp experience will challenge Rochester middle-school students to solve a problem that water-quality specialists face-and smell!-every summer: Why is Charlotte Beach closed again, and what can we do about it?

The Get Real! Environmental Action Camp is the brainchild of an assistant professor at the Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester. In April L. Luehmann's course called Integrating Science and Technology, graduate students enrich their science knowledge, try new teaching techniques, and get immediate feedback by working directly with middle-school youngsters.

The beach at Lake Ontario is this summer's target for both older and younger students. Assigned groups will pose and investigate a question dealing with the larger issue of why Charlotte Beach is sometimes unfit for swimming. The Warner students have been through the exercise once, wearing chest-high waders and using traditional and high-tech methods to gather and test water specimens. Next week, they will teach a free, half-day science camp to students entering grades seven through nine this fall.

"In one week, city students will design their own experiments, use technology, learn about water quality, and discover how science is important in everyday life," says Luehmann. They also will hear about the social and economic impact that the closing of a public beach can have on a community.

From 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 4 to 8, the group of about 25 will be joined by Dina Markowitz, a molecular biologist and course co-instructor, who is assistant professor of environmental medicine and director of the Life Sciences Learning Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center. At the camp's final session on Aug. 8, city students will present data to guests and community leaders about how to minimize the closing of the beach and what they can do as citizens to alleviate pollution.

When day camp is over, Warner students have a final week of class to evaluate the science unit and reflect on how to improve it.

"This engagement of students in authentic science investigations is a challenging and powerful teaching strategy advocated by the latest calls for reform in science education," says Luehmann, a faculty member in the science education program. Making youngsters a critical part of that curriculum development is equally important, but often neglected.

In her course, Luehmann has seen many examples of quality scientific research from her graduate students along with "much thinking about how this experience can be made meaningful to middle-school students and what is the value of available technologies."

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