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SMC sponsors summer camp for local students

| Friday, August 29, 2014

‘The Status of Girls of Indiana,’ a report published by Saint Mary’s College in Sept. 2013 found that female students in the state of Indiana fall behind boys in SAT, ACT and AP testing in math and science classes. In order to combat this trend, Saint Mary’s chemistry students sponsored an educational summer camp for Elkhart elementary school students, senior Dara Marquez said.

Each grade ran a different science experiment to make their own polymer, or slime, Marquez said.

“We had them mix polyvinyl alcohol and borax, a common experiment to do at home, and they added their own food coloring to it,” Marquez said. “At the end they had a gooey product. It was really neat to instruct them on what to do and to observe them as they did it. It reminded me how different perspectives, especially for kids, can affect the way we view science.”

Marquez said it was empowering to know that the students were curious and wanted to learn more about the polymers. She said she strongly believes showing younger children the physical aspect of science allows them to relate it to their current interests.

“Experiences like those push us more to understand why it is important to always be willing to be mentors,” Marquez said.

Marquez said she believes younger children are much more curious than adults, which helped made their experiments engaging to the elementary school students.

“Their curiosity and the fact that at their age science isn’t intimidating makes me believe that if we maintain that attitude as they get older and learn more difficult concepts they’d be much more interested in pursuing it as a career,” Marquez said.

Marquez said there was equal participation among boys and girls, but their attitudes were generally different.

“I’ve noticed that girls are much more meticulous and careful overall when running an experiment,” Marquez said. “They usually want to do it the right way the first time and want to make sure that they ask the right questions. Usually that’s why you assume they’re the quietest, but in reality they’re just trying to best articulate their curiosity.”

Saint Mary’s Affiliate of the American Chemical Society’s (SMAACS) goal is to increase participation of our students and the community in extra curricular chemistry events, SMAACS senior president Katherine Bussey said.

“It is my hope and passion to ignite an interest in each child we work with, so that they will pursue further education in math and science fields,” Bussey said.

In regards to the ‘Status of Girls’ report, Bussey said she believes the math and science test gap between boys and girls is an issue that needs to be addressed.

“I believe that by encouraging girls to participate in math and science activities early on, we can boost their confidence so that later on in their education they do not think twice about choosing a field that is ‘traditionally male,’” Bussey said. “Women are just as capable of engineering the next International Space Station, developing the next Mandelbrot set, understanding Black-body radiation, or curing cancer.”

Saint Mary’s also held a forensic camp on campus this summer with the similar goal of exposing young students to different aspects of science.

The Forensic Science Camp, part of the Saint Mary’s College summer academic program, introduces young women in grades 8-12 to the college experience, assistant director of special events Lisa Peppers said. The camp used fun activities to instill a scientific mindset in the young students.

“After gathering evidence at a staged crime scene, Forensic Science campers, working in Saint Mary’s College labs, use biology, chemistry, mathematics, and deductive reasoning to solve the crime and find the culprit,” Peppers said.

Peppers said the goal is to encourage the mathematical and scientific interests in young women.

“In addition, we hope our summer camp helps female students improve their test scores in both math and science.”

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About Alex Winegar

A junior at Saint Mary's, Alex is a Communicative Sciences and Disorders major. She serves as the Saint Mary's co-associate news editor. Alex enjoys traveling, food and spending time in "The Mitten."

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