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Get Real! Science Camp tackles record-breaking Lake Ontario flooding

Summer Camp Tackles Record-Breaking Lake Ontario Flooding
Sodus students study high water levels affecting lakeshore communities

Lake Ontario shorelines have been hit hard in recent months by record-breaking flooding that continues to impact local homeowners and businesses, alike. But for some Sodus middle school students, this serious local water problem has become a priority this summer.

Forty-five Sodus students in grades 5-8 are taking part in hands-on research as part of a weeklong summer camp, called Get Real! Science, running July 18-25. Led by graduate students who are training to become science teachers at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education, the Get Real! Science Camp is being offered for the third consecutive summer, in partnership with the Sodus Central School District, to students outside of Monroe County.

This year, the partnership provides an opportunity for students from Sodus Intermediate School to explore whether or not climate change is contributing to the severe, record-breaking flooding of Lake Ontario; the selective breeding of apples and animals; and the use of science to defend and protect recess.

The camp provides two levels of learning. It gives youth a hands-on approach as to what science is all about, and it gives Warner graduate students, who are studying to become science teachers, some practical experience working with students in a non-traditional, informal academic setting. These soon-to-be science teachers are guiding Sodus students in acting, thinking, and working like real scientists on relevant problems in their own community. Situating the science in a local community helps teachers understand the crucial role place and culture plays in learning. Students are also learning what can be done to tackle real local environmental issues.

Throughout the week, Sodus students have been on the ground conducting the three scientific investigations, alongside graduate students, while devoting a portion of their time back in the science classrooms, where they have continued to investigate questions about and formulate solutions to these local problems.

Students will then present their findings and recommendations to the community and key stakeholders for improving shoreline flooding and more on the camp’s last day, Thursday, July 25, from 10 to 11:15 a.m., in the gymnasium at Sodus Jr./Sr. High School (54 Mill St., Sodus, N.Y. 14551). The event, which will include interactive presentations and live student debates, is free and open to the public.

“These authentic learning experiences help students to dig deeper—to ask questions and understand issues in their community,” says April Luehmann, associate professor at the Warner School who created the program more than a decade ago, “and to ultimately come up with ways to address some of these environmental problems affecting their lakeshore communities. I hope that members of the community and key stakeholders will come to support their local youth as they devise plans and share recommendations for the future.”

The value of inquiry-based science education—or doing science to learn science—is affirmed as a solid method of teaching and learning throughout summer camp and the remainder of the 15-month science teacher preparation program, known as the Get Real! Science Program, which the Get Real! Science Camp is part of. The Get Real! Science Program is grounded in authentic experiences that include the summer Get Real! Science Camp, Science STARS (Students Tackling Authentic and Relevant Science) program, and more.