Grade eight students to become environmental scientists at summer camp

Grade eight students from the Toronto Catholic and Simcoe County District School Boards will have a chance to become environmental scientists at a new summer camp hosted by York University and Seneca College. The Urban and Rural Students as Environmental Scientists camp targets at-risk youth and combines scientific inquiry with hands-on investigations giving students a first-hand look at many of the things that scientists do. Twenty-four students will participate in this year’s inaugural camp, which focuses on ecology and environmental science. The camp begins today and will run until June 6.

Left: Grade eight students will have an opportunity to learn more about the environment in a new summer camp co-hosted by York University and Seneca College

Students will spend four days at York University’s Keele campus and four days at Seneca’s King campus investigating issues such as light pollution, the impact of invasive species, and the effects of various practices on water quality, bird habitats and bee populations. The students will work alongside scientists and research teams from both institutions.

“We’re designing all of the camp activities to pique the students’ interest in environmental science and give them an understanding of what scientists do,” explains Margaret Sinclair, professor of mathematics, science & technology in York’s Faculty of Education and the York/Seneca Institute for Mathematics, Science & Technology Education (YSIMSTE) . “The goal is to excite them about the possibilities of careers in science and technology and to show them that university and college programs are within their reach.”

The camp is part of a broader project funded by the Youth Science & Technology Outreach Program of the Ministry of Research & Innovation. The project proposal was developed by Sinclair, Professor Paula Wilson, associate dean in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, and Professor Steve Alsop in the Faculty of Education, with the assistance of Svitlana Taraban (PhD ’07).

At the end of each camp session an open house will be held for students, parents and community members. During the open house, participating scientists will speak about their research. In addition, each year, students who have shown a high level of engagement in the camp activities will be offered four-day individual placements to work during their grade nine year under the mentorship of a scientist from York or Seneca.

The Urban and Rural Youth as Environmental Scientists camp is one of 41 projects receiving a total investment of $5 million over three years under the Ontario government’s Youth Science & Technology Outreach Program. Through the program, the government funds youth-based, science awareness in diverse fields such as robotics, life sciences, environmental science, engineering and theoretical physics.