by Diane VanDyke and Alana J. Mauger
Twenty-two middle school students from the Pottstown region immersed themselves in Montgomery County Community College’s Green STEM Camp during the week of June 25 at the West Campus in Pottstown.
In its second year, the Green STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – summer camp is made possible by a $10,000 grant from the TD Charitable Foundation, which is funded by TD Bank. The camp encourages urban youth from Pottstown to learn about science and explore high-demand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.
“To understand what it is like to be a scientist, you have to emulate the environment in which a scientist works from start to end, which is what we did during this week,” said Dr. Davi Gonzales, Biology associate professor and director of the camp.
The students learned basic concepts of the scientific method, experimental design and statistics, which they then applied to hands-on experiments throughout the week. Working in teams, they developed hypotheses, collected specimens, analyzed their collections in a laboratory and recorded their findings.
For example, teams collected and tested water samples from the local Manatawny Creek and Schuylkill River to investigate the impact of pollution on soil and water microbial diversity and to conduct pH and water filtration tests.
On the last day of camp, students presented their results to families, instructors and TD Bank representatives during a dinner program.
“What makes this program truly unique is that it was done at a community college with middle school students within five days,” Dr. Gonzales said. “Usually, these types of programs are done by research universities with much older students. It proves that you can teach college-level material to younger students. We were able to do this due to the tremendous talent of the faculty and staff involved.”
The Green STEM program was a collaborative effort of the College’s faculty, including Biology Associate Professor Dr. Davi Gonzales, Geology Professor Rob Kuhlman, Microbiology Instructor Dr. James Bretz, Assistant Chemistry Professor Dr. Janet Graden, Biology Instructor David Whalen, and Assistant Mathematics Professor Stephanie Isaac.
photos by John Welsh