Third Annual Science Summer Day Camp

Kathryn Peters

In June, students from Cuba Middle School, Lybrook Middle School, Coronado Middle School, and Lindrith Area Heritage School spent a week of their summer vacation at Science Summer Day Camp. The camp, which was held at Cuba Middle School, was a result of the partnering efforts of dedicated teachers, community members, and the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) team, which is housed at the UNM PRC. SEPA is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. SEPA camp was hosted by the Cuba schools and the following teachers: Kate Bagby, Olivia Casaus, and Daniel Delgado of Cuba High School; Joseph Brondo and Daisy Cortez of Cuba Middle School; and Darlene Chiquito of Lybrook Middle School. The camp was facilitated by SEPA team members Kathryn Peters, Ashlee Begaye, Alejandro Ortega, Quirin Martine, and LaShea Harris.

Students began the week by learning about the science of soil during a trip to the Fisher and Rito San Jose Trails. Many students were surprised to learn the importance of the substance we consider just “dirt.” But Clay Robinson (“Dr. Dirt”) taught the students that everything we eat, wear, or use to build our houses must be grown in soil. Students learned about various soil textures (classified by particle size as either sand, silt, or clay); how soil undergoes changes (through erosion or weathering); and other biological, chemical, and physical properties of soil.

After getting dirty on Monday, students cleaned up on Tuesday—by making soap and lip balm to learn about the science of beauty. They discovered that virtually all the products in a home, from make-up to dish detergent, are developed and tested by a team of scientists.

On Wednesday and Thursday, camp activities pertained to engineering and computer science. A computer scientist from Project GUTS (Growing Up Thinking Scientifically) taught the students how to write computer code. Students then worked in groups to make their own “roller coasters,” which helped them learn about engineering, kinetic energy, rate, speed, and acceleration. Students also learned about water pollution from a groundwater model, worked in “engineering firms” to complete a pipe-cleaner building challenge, and heard from seniors in high school and students at NM Tech about what to expect when applying for and attending college.

On Friday, students learned about the science of sports. A UNM student who is studying exercise science led the students in several activities, including measuring their pulse rate while resting, standing, walking, and running. Students also extracted their own DNA by using lab equipment, and they placed their DNA strands in a small glass vial that can be worn around the neck like a necklace.

Overall, the students learned that science is all around us, not something that is practiced only by people in white lab coats. In fact, it is a way of thinking that is done every day. The many interesting careers in science include those in health care, engineering, and the outdoors.

Be sure to thank the teachers, parents, and community members who supported the community’s youth with their time, energy, enthusiasm, and ideas! They are definitely making a difference in the lives of youth in Cuba, Lybrook, Gallina, and Lindrith.


Prevention Research Center

The mission of the (UNM) Prevention Research Center (PRC) is to address the health promotion and disease prevention needs of New Mexican communities through participatory, science-based, health promotion and disease prevention research. We fulfill this mission through collaboration, training, dissemination and evaluation activities.