Chemistry Professor Dr. Babayco teaches a Jefferson Middle School student how to use a pipette.

Chemistry Professor Dr. Babayco teaches a Jefferson Middle School student how to use a pipette.

Last week, a troupe of young, inquisitive scientists walked across the street to campus from Jefferson Middle School. These young students were on hand for an after-school camp, Cyclones Science Investigations, hosted by Columbia College. For five days, about 20 students participated in hands-on activities with Columbia College science, nursing, forensic science and mathematics faculty.

Tracy Worthington, a social studies teacher at Jefferson Middle School, had the idea for the camp. Worthington, who said the middle school has identified a need to improve science literacy among its students, approached Teresa VanDover about developing an after-school program with Columbia College science faculty. VanDover, an associate professor of education at Columbia College and chair of the college’s Partners in Education committee, was excited about the camp.

“I am enthusiastic about this work because it provides hands-on, authentic learning for our Middle School Students, and increases the opportunities for Columbia College to engage with the broader educational community,” said VanDover.

Each day of the week brought new activities to introduce the middle schoolers to various fields of science jobs in those fields. Monday and Tuesday, Criminal Justice instructor Mark Himmel showed students the technologies used to detect fingerprints, calculate bullet trajectories, identify footprints and spot clues not visible to the naked eye.

Middle schoolers assisted by Columbia College education students learn applied math and physics with "Bungie-jumping Barbies."

Middle schoolers assisted by Columbia College education students learn applied math and physics with “Bungie-jumping Barbies.”

Wednesday brought an exercise in applied physics and math with”bungie-jumping Barbies,” as Professor of Mathematics, Dr. Ann Schlemper, taught students to measure the distance a Barbie doll falls when connected to a chain of rubber bands. The students used their measurements to create scatter plots and linear regressions. Columbia College students even got in on the action, as Dr. Curtis Mason, assistant professor of Education, brought some of his students to assist with the activity and practice their teaching skills.

Dr. Joyce Gentry, associate professor of Nursing, took the lead on Thursday by showing the students how to check each other’s blood pressure, reflexes and pupillary responses. They also had the opportunity to interact with Simon the SimMan, the nursing lab’s interactive patient simulator.

To wrap up the week, Dr. Chris Babayco, assistant professor of chemistry, wowed students by demonstrating how different elements emit different colors when burned. They also made “elephant’s toothpaste,” a catalyzed reaction of household ingredients that creates a fast-expanding foam.

To participate in the camp, interested middle schoolers had to write an essay about why they wanted to attend, as well as acquire a teacher recommendation. Worthington believes the camp showed great success in its pilot year.

“Students [who hadn’t applied to the program] keep coming to me wanting to get in,” Worthington said during the week. And of those who did attend, “They’ve been really engaged and asked a lot of good questions about science in the real world.”

To read more about the week of activities, check out the April 2 Missourian Article: Columbia College teachers hold a science camp for Jefferson Middle School students