Pottstown Teens Dive Into Science During Green STEM Camp

by Alana J. Mauger

Seventeen middle-school students from the Pottstown area immersed themselves in Montgomery County Community College’s Green STEM Camp during the week of June 24 at the West Campus in Pottstown.

In its third year, the Green STEM 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 data analysis, 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, one group compared data from four water samples taken from different locations in the Schuylkill River and Manatawny Creek to determine the correlation between temperature and water oxygenation levels. Other groups studied the pH of common substances and their impact on the environment, and whether or gender plays a role in the speed of someone’s reflexes. Side note – it doesn’t.

Another group studied millipedes collected during the camp’s field day to determine if they preferred smooth or rough surfaces.  Interestingly, the students concluded that their experiment didn’t meet the needs of the millipedes, which kept trying to escape from their new habitats.

On the last day of camp, students presented their results to their families and instructors during a special 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 STEM faculty, including Biology Associate Professor Dr. Davi Gonzales, Geology Professor Rob Kuhlman, Microbiology Instructor Dr. James Bretz, Assistant Chemistry Professor Dr. Janet Graden, Assistant Mathematics Professor Stephanie Isaac, and Biology Lecturer Cheryl Criscuolo. Program teaching assistants included Kaitlyn DeJohn, Charles Lewis and Juliane Smithson.

Check out the video below for some camp photos!

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