Summer Science Camp
The Biocore Outreach Ambassadors have partnered with UW professors, graduate students from the Biology Outreach Club, and public school teachers since June 2007 to develop a week-long, inquiry based day camp for fourth through twelfth grade students in the Wisconsin Heights district. Students work in small groups to investigate original questions centered on Prairies, Streams, Human Anatomy, Microbiology, Nematoad Worms, and Forest Ecology. A summary of each research topic is below.
Prairie Restoration Ecology
Are you interested in being outside, getting your hands dirty, observing plants, insects, and all sorts of organisms that live in and around a prairie?
In this unit students:
- Get familiar with two different prairie ecosystems
- Examine and ask questions about the soil, plants, insects, birds, and other animals that make their home in a prairie
- Learn how to measure elements of the prairie environment
- Develop your own research project about prairie ecology that interests you
Previous campers have investigated many interesting questions, including 1.) Do spittlebugs prefer and produce more "spittle" on goldenrod or aster plants?, 2. ) Will we find more crickets in cool, moist, dense prairie vegetation than areas with sparse vegetation?, 3.) How does the aging of a purple coneflower influence the number and types of pollinating butterflies?
Stream ecology is the study of all the living and non-living components of stream systems and how those elements interact with each other. Think of anything that you might find in a stream; a trout, a crayfish, a rock, a bug, maybe even an old tire. All of these things influence each other and are affected by one another. The Stream Team students:
- "Immerse" themselves in the Black Earth Creek ecosystem to learn about numerous components of the stream.
- Learn how water movement, fish, invertebrates, vegetation, bacteria, water chemistry, and pollution affect the creek.
- Explore the creek from the bottom up and will have a chance to develop their own study to investigate an aspect of the creek that interests them.
Past research projects have investigated if plants affect presence of aquatic invertebrates, if substrate influences number of crayfish present, and if there is a correlation between stream flow, water temperature, and amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.
In the human biology section, students learn how to study how our own bodies respond to different things. Students test their hypotheses on actual human subjects (like their friends, brothers and sisters)! Students use some neat equipment to measure things like:
- The speed at which hearts beat (heart rate)
- Breathing speed (respiration rate)
- How quickly muscles contract (reaction time)
- How strongly blood passes through your blood vessels (blood pressure)
Previous research projects have included a study of reaction time to a sound in adults vs. kids; a test of how fast your heart beats when you go through a maze with a blindfold on vs. no blindfold; and a test of how different kinds of music affect your blood pressure.
In this section, students learn about cells--the tiny parts that make up our body as well as plants, animals, and all living things--and what's inside them! Students experience the following activities:
- Observing pond life and other cells under the microscope
- Growing (harmless) microbes like yeast
- Learning how yeast is a tiny organism and how it makes bread rise
- Extracting DNA (the genetic material) from wheat cells
- Using molecular biologist tools and technologies like micropipettes and gel electrophoresis
Previous research projects have included surveys of the life inside different pond water samples; a test of what foods yeast like to eat; and a test of what kinds of soap work best to clean your hands!
Tiny Soil Worms (Nematodes)
Are you curious about how we can learn about the environment and human biology from a tiny worm? Or about how mutations can affect behavior and health? Students discover why tiny nematodes are so useful for answering these questions and more. Students:
- Observe living worms with microscopes
- Learn about genetics and mutations
- Ask how worms respond to touch, odors and other environmental inputs
- Find out which kinds of soil worms like to live in
- Do their own worm projects!
Previous research projects have asked: Do worms respond to heat or cold? Do certain foods attract or repel worms? Can worms find their food when it's hidden by an obstacle?
Are you curious about the trees, shrubs, non-woody plants, fungi, and animals that make up a Wisconsin forest? Like to get outside and breathe the fresh air? Forest ecology is the study of the plants and animals of the forest ecosystem and how they grow, live and interact with each other and their surroundings. Humans depend on forests for wood, oxygen, water, and recreation so learning how they work is important (and fun!). For this topic, studentsventure into Wisconsin's forests and:
- Explore the different types of forests and why they are found where they are
- Learn to tell the difference between common trees and how each plays a part in the ecosystem
- Examine how humans have affected the forests of Wisconsin
- Practice the methods scientists use to discover how forests grow and change through time.
- Ask questions about the way forests work, and develop their own research project on something they are curious about!