Middle School Students Study Environmental Science at SEED Summer Experience | Education
High school students from Flagstaff, Grand Canyon and Pine-Strawberry will spend a week at Camp Colton in July to hone their science skills, participating in the summer STEM Environmental Discovery and Enrichment (SEED) experience. camp that gives children a chance to participate in hands-on environmental research.
This is the second year that Camp Colton has offered its SEED Summer Experience. Developed by the non-profit Friends of Camp Colton – which runs the camp alongside the Flagstaff Unified School District – the program gives students a chance to explore science in ways they might not have been able to. doing otherwise.
Most of the campers are seventh and eighth graders who have been nominated for scholarships by their teachers based on their financial need and interest in science. About 80 campers are participating this year over two week-long sessions (42 this week and 39 the next), which Wilder says is more than double last year’s total.
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Most of the kids in the SEED Summer Experience spent time at Camp Colton with their school in sixth grade, so the intention is to build on previous experiences.
“Camp Colton’s real purpose is outdoor environmental education,” said Ari Wilder, executive director of Friends of Camp Colton. “…We really wanted to give kids an authentic science experience in the field and that’s what it is.”
Students are divided into groups focusing on one of four research topics related to climate change: soil ecology, hydrology, native organisms, and fire ecology. Community experts, local teachers and camp educators then guide them in selecting a research question and completing a project to investigate during the week.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, the campers were busy developing questions that would guide their research for the rest of the program. They studied maps labeled with outlines of historic fires, different water sources, trails, and camp location while discussing the best ways to answer their question.
“We give teachers time to teach them a bit so they know what tools are accessible and what professionals could do,” said program coordinator Jackson Carranco. “…This group could be grappling with three different questions that they potentially want to investigate, and they’re just trying to figure out which one might work best – where are we going if we’re going to do this, what’s your experience been as that expert… then they go out and do it.
The hydrology panel discussion was led by Northland Preparatory Academy science teacher Kayla Arendt, camp support staff Jayden Hagerman, and community experts Danielle Urich and Hannah Chambless.
On Tuesday, the group were identifying reservoirs in the area that they could use to study the effects of fire on water sources. They had compiled a list of seven in the Ponderosa Pine biome that they could sample and compare.
“We’re trying to figure out where we want to go, like sites…and we’re trying to figure out where the water would go if it landed on those fire scars,” said eighth-grader MJ Jeffers.
Eighth-grade student Wyatt Reichman said the group was looking at “tanks with fire scars versus tanks without fire scars, and we’re taking water samples.”
“We don’t want to go too many places or else…we’ll get little bits of data from each. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’d rather get a lot of data from one than scattered everywhere,” Jeffers added.
Since the program is an overnight camp, students also participate in more traditional camp activities such as archery, tie-dyeing, and ice cream making. Local experts also visit to present topics such as astronomy or local animals.
At the end of the week (camp runs from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon), campers will host an open house for their families, where they will share what they have done during their research. This will be the first time the camp has held the showcase event, as last year’s program was “deeply COVID” and the projects were displayed in a video instead.
“The completed project is hopefully a sort of wrap-up of what they did over the week – what they ended up learning about their question and how that relates to other projects and how it relates to climate change,” says Wilder.
Major funders of Camp Colton and this program include the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff, the Geo Family Foundation, and the APS Foundation, as well as a number of individual donors.
The SEED Summer Experience is also a professional development opportunity for the science teachers involved.
“Our goal is for science teachers to learn with the students and hopefully some of the things they learn at Camp Colton and through this project bring back to the classroom next year,” Wilder said.
To learn more about Camp Colton, visit friendsofcampcolton.org.