During the summer, sciences like chemistry, physics, astronomy, microbiology and physiology are the average student’s worst nightmare. But for 20 mothers and daughters last week at Weber State University’s first annual Mom and Daughter Science Camp, it became a fun reality.
“We wanted to be doing more camps, and we really wanted (to) look at special audiences,” said Adam Johnston, WSU physics professor and director of the WSU Center for Science and Math Education. “We wanted to provide a space for moms and daughters that was just for them, no boys allowed.”
Throughout the week, professors volunteered to provide opportunities for camp attendees to work with real scientists on various science projects.
“We had great faculty that just jumped at the opportunity to work with these girls,” Johnston said.
WSU microbiology professor Michele Culumber taught the microbiology portion of the camp.
“(They learned) how to make slides and use a microscope while having fun,” Culumber said.
She said the participants completed the first lab of her college-level microbiology course.
“To a fourth- or eighth-grader, it is very exciting to be doing something that a college student is doing,” Culumber said.
The daughters weren’t the only ones who seemed excited to participate in the activities, according to Johnston.
“I’ve been surprised at how involved and excited the moms have been (with this),” he said. “Maybe next year we’ll have to do a camp for adults.”
Jackie Wilfred, a teacher at Taylor Canyon Elementary School who helped out with the camp, said she saw many benefits throughout the week.
“Having parent interaction is something that’s so important, and a lot of districts are missing it,” Wilfred said. “This has been a good bonding experience for the moms and daughters.”
Wilfred said that while many of the concepts were a bit advanced and won’t be used until high school, the camp exposes participants to ideas they will continually use.
“(Even) astronomy is a sixth-grade concept,” she said. “(We) also use math every day.”
Johnston said one of the reasons the camp was established was to encourage girls to become involved in science.
“We could always use more women in science,” he said. “There’s reluctance in girls (to participate) in science especially. We see this in statistics as they get older.”
For Paula Gibbs and her fifth-grade daughter Audrey, the camp turned out to be more than just science.
“We’ve learned a lot, but the best part really has been the mother-daughter aspect of being together and learning and having fun together,” she said. “If they offer the camp next year, we will definitely be back.”
Johnston said there are plans to continue the camp next year.
“We’ll talk to some of the moms and get feedback, but so far, everything suggests that this is something we should continue with,” he said.
If the camp does continue, Johnston said he hopes to have more participation from WSU students.
“(Unfortunately) most fourth-to-eighth-grade activities don’t entice too many,” he said.
Johnston said he plans to tell interested students to take the summer off from classes so they can help with summer science activities like the camp.
“(The faculty) in charge of the program have found that bringing their undergraduate research students in to help has been really helpful to (everyone),” Johnston said.