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Science Camp Seeks to Engage Middle School Students at a Critical Time

Aug. 7, 2009

Middle School students participating in the first-ever Oak Ridge Science Camp studied subjects such as solar energy, wind energy and biofuels.

Middle School students participating in the first-ever Oak Ridge Science Camp studied subjects such as solar energy, wind energy and biofuels. Pictured L to R: Tashaan Vineyard (middle) from Mt. View Middle School in Welch, W.Va., and Tatsi Nelson (right) from Swain Middle School in Bryson City, N.C., measured the velocity of wind at the Tennessee Valley Authority wind power site on Buffalo Mountain near Oak Ridge, Tenn. Click image to enlarge.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Research indicates that many students lose interest in studies related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics topics during the middle school years. But a new summer camp is attempting to "turn the tide" on that trend.

Twenty-three students and six teachers from nine Appalachian states came to East Tennessee during July to participate in the Appalachian Regional Commission/Oak Ridge Science Camp—a new middle school science camp with the theme, "Climate, Global Warming and Energy."

The camp, hosted by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), provided students the opportunity to interact with ORNL scientists through state-of-the-art classroom technology at ORAU's Center for Science Education on the ORAU campus.

ORNL is one of the world's premier centers for research and development on energy production, distribution and use, as well as on the effects of energy technologies on climate and national security.

Upon arriving at ORAU, the students were divided into teams and assigned projects on the topics of solar energy, wind energy and biofuels.

Tashaan Vineyard, a student from Mt. View Middle School in Welch, W.Va., learned about the science camp from a school counselor. "She asked my science and math teachers who was really passionate about science, and they chose me," Vineyard said. "I want to be an environmental scientist. This [camp] is really cool. If you get the chance, do it."

Jennifer Harper, a teacher at Jefferson County Schools in Dandridge, Tenn., said she learned much through planning the curriculum for the camp. "If other teachers asked about a science camp, I would definitely recommend they do [this]," she said. "I'm... working with new students and having an impact on students that I wouldn't have met otherwise."

According to ORAU's Director of Science Education Programs Wayne Stevenson, "The camp is carefully designed to provide students with an active, hands-on learning experience that engages each team of students in a week-long research project. The curriculum was developed by teachers, with input from ORNL scientists, to motivate students to attend college and major in science and technology fields." Program Manager Marie Westfall added that "based on the success of the program, we hope to expand the number of participants next year."

While the middle school science camp was taking place, 37 high school students and 18 teachers from across Appalachia engaged in laboratory-based learning experiences with scientists at ORNL and participated in a variety of East Tennessee tours and activities through the ARC/ORNL Math-Science-Technology Institute, which was also hosted by ARC, ORNL and ORAU.

During closing ceremonies, the students from both the institute and the science camp made presentations on their projects, and certificates and photos were presented.

Middle School Science Camp Participants (Teachers highlighted in yellow)

Name School Name Location
Brooks, Shiann Mt. View Middle Welch, W.Va.
Coley, Jan Jefferson County Schools Dandridge, Tenn.
Deskins, Adam Tazewell Middle Tazewell, Va.
Eversole, Samantha Buckhorn Elementary Buckhorn, Ky.
Gabbard, Hanna Buckhorn Elementary Buckhorn, Ky.
Harper, Jennifer Jefferson County Schools Dandridge, Tenn.
Heislop, Christian Pine Haven Elementary Jamestown, Tenn.
Johnson, Chris Tazewell Middle Tazewell, Va.
King, Thomas Jefferson Elementary Erie, Pa.
Koons, Aaron Springfield Middle Williamsport, Md.
Lee, Brent Oak Ridge Schools Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Malone, Nick Pine Haven Elementary Jamestown, Tenn.
Marceau, Shay Swain Middle Bryson City, N.C.
Nelson, Tatsi Swain Middle Bryson City, N.C.
Parker, Michael Jefferson Elementary Erie, Pa.
Potter, Joseph Pine Haven Elementary Jamestown, Tenn.
Price, Taylor Ashworth Middle Calhoun, Ga.
Pugh, Tyler Ashworth Middle Calhoun, Ga.
Reliford, Trey Sewanee College Sewanee, Tenn.
Rhodes, Jed Ashworth Middle Calhoun, Ga.
Rubin, Mark Anne Arundel County Schools  Millersburg, Md.
Steves, Shannon Jefferson Elementary Erie, Pa.
Tate, Shakera Tuskegee Institute Middle Tuskegee, Ala.
Triplett, Dean Swain County Middle Bryson City, N.C.
Vaughn, Elaine Oak Ridge Schools Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Vineyard, Tashaan Mt. View Middle Welch, W. Va.
Vires, Michael Buckhorn Elementary Buckhorn, Ky.
Weaver, Brett Springfield Middle Williamsport, Md.
Whitaker, Aaron Mt. View Middle Welch, W. Va.

The Appalachian Regional Commission is a unique federal-state partnership established by Congress in 1965 to bring Appalachia into the mainstream of the American economy. Through development of the 3,090 mile Appalachian Development Highway System and a range of development programs in areas such as education, training, health care, telecommunications, entrepreneurship, job creation and basic infrastructure, ARC programs help reduce isolation and improve the lives and economic opportunities of the 23 million people living in 410 counties across 13 states that make up Appalachia.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of the nation's premier research laboratories and with a focus on energy, climate and national security, is managed for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science by UT-Battelle, LLC, a partnership of The University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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