Cool sci­ence

‘Po­lar’ camp takes the heat out of sum­mer

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

From in­ves­ti­gat­ing an Alaskan mur­der to build­ing ro­bots to ex­plore the Antarc­tic, stu­dents are tak­ing part in a num­ber of cool sci­ence ac­tiv­i­ties this week at the James E. Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter’s “Po­lar Ex­plorer” camp.

The one-week Po­lar Ex­plorer camp is the sec­ond of three camps be­ing run by the sci­ence cen­ter this sum­mer for ris­ing fourth through eighth graders.

Last week, the sci­ence cen­ter held “Ex­pe­di­tion Earth,” a study of wet­lands, ge­ol­ogy and me­te­o­rol­ogy, and from Au­gust 22-26 will hold “Up, Up and Away,” a camp on aero­dy­nam­ics and flight.

Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter di­rec­tor Monique Wil­son said the frigid theme of the camp was one way to help beat the heat of sum­mer.

“We thought we’d do a po­lar theme, be­cause it’s the mid­dle of sum­mer, and it’s hot, so it makes a nice dis­trac­tion,” Wil­son said.

Mon­day kicked off with an in­ves­ti­ga­tion sce­nario. Camp par­tic­i­pants took on the role of in­ves­ti­ga­tors as they tried to solve the mys­te­ri­ous mur­der of a sci­en­tist at the “An­chor­age Po­lar Re­search In­sti­tute.”

Stu­dents an­a­lyzed blood and hair sam­ples, fin­ger­prints and tire tracks to iden­tify the mur­der sus­pect, and even mea­sured sim­u­lated mag­gots to de­ter­mine the vic­tim’s time of death.

“We set it in the sce­nario of, this is a re­searcher in Alaska. He was tasked with pro­tect­ing the wildlife in the oil re­serves and he got kind of crooked, and one of the towns­folk de­cided to kill him,” Wil­son said.

Later in the week, Wil­son said stu­dents would use liq­uid ni­tro­gen to make dry ice “ice cream,” write their own mu­sic to pen­guin calls and build ro­bots de­signed to ex­plore Antarc­tica.

“The rovers will have dif­fer­ent tasks; they’ll have to mea­sure dif­fer­ent land­marks, take a read­ing of the hu­mid­ity, mea­sure how deep is the ice floe,” Wil­son said.

Camp par­tic­i­pants also get a swim break at St. Charles High School’s swim­ming pool in the mid­dle of each day.

Zariya Cowan, 11, said she took part in the pre­vi­ous camp and wanted to re­turn for a sec­ond week.

“It was a dif­fer­ent camp last week, but I had fun, so I said, can I go next week, and they said sure,” Zariya said.

Zariya said the best part so far was the crime scene in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in­clud­ing ex­am­in­ing hairs from the “crime scene” un­der a microscope.

“I never knew there were cells or any­thing in­side of hair. I thought it was just a strip of hair, and that was it,” Zariya said.

Ter­rell Pullen, 11, was an­other par­tic­i­pant in the camp. He said he was ex­cited to take part in the Po­lar Ex­plorer camp.

“I re­ally love sci­ence,” Ter­rell said. “There were a lot of ac­tiv­i­ties and I thought it would be re­ally fun, and I want to learn more about sci­ence.”

Wil­son said one of the goals of the camp was to cre­ate a fun, ex­cit­ing way for stu­dents to de­velop or keep a love of sci­ence dur­ing the sum­mer.

“This also helps them stay sharp for school. They’re ex­pected to use math … mea­sure­ments, crit­i­cal think­ing, in­fer­ences,” Wil­son said. “We do have fun … but we are also de­vel­op­ing STEM [Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics] skills, and teach­ing them about be­ing good cit­i­zens.”

James E. Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter camp par­tic­i­pants Zion McCoy and Chrissy Brown the­o­rize how the vic­tim was killed dur­ing a “crime scene in­ves­ti­ga­tion” sce­nario at this week’s “Po­lar Ex­plor­ers” camp.

STAFF PHOTOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Camp par­tic­i­pant Jay­den White tests sim­u­lated blood for A and B anti­gens dur­ing a “crime scene in­ves­ti­ga­tion” sce­nario at the James E. Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter’s “Po­lar Ex­plor­ers” camp this week.

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