Environmental Factor, August 2009, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Community Support Aids Green Science Camp
By Laura Hall
The Durham Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority provided a fun-filled day for children and adults with a focus on green science at the fourth annual Science and Everyday Experiences (SEE) day camp on July 11. Along with the sorority sisters and community volunteers, many NIEHS employees and retirees volunteered their time to assist in instructing thirty Durham Public School fourth- to eighth- grade children in science and math activities.
This year's camp activities focused on green issues, emphasizing alternative energy solutions. Dick Sloane of NIEHS gave a demonstration on recycling and composting. Walter Weathers of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explained the operation of solar panels. The children learned about electric, solar and wind energy.
In some of their activities, the children made batteries using fruits and vegetables, fabricated solar ovens from pizza boxes to cook s'mores, engineered an anemometer from paper cups to measure wind speed and simulated air transportation by using balloons, fishing lines and straws to understand how the force of air can be used to propel a vehicle. The materials used in all the children's activities were everyday items that could be found at home.
Parents were also able to participate with an informational workshop and hands-on science activities. The adult program was organized by Marian Johnson-Thompson, Ph.D., who recently retired from her position as NIEHS director of Education and Biomedical Research Development and Sandra White, Ph.D., a North Carolina Central University (NCCU) professor and wife of former NIEHS Director Ken Olden, Ph.D.
In the parent workshop, the adults heard several speakers who informed them of the opportunities available to children interested in math and science. The talks covered special high school curricula programs available for North Carolina children within the local area and across the state, educational enrichment programs, and how to advocate for healthy food and exercise in schools.
The talks were well received by the parents in the audience. "Very interesting," remarked Tahra McLaughlin. "I wasn't expecting this wealth of knowledge." Participant Moses Best said the talks offered "very exciting information." The adults also had a tremendous time in their interactive science activities, making DNA necklaces and solving puzzles.
The camp was almost derailed by the theft of copper piping from the air conditioning units at the Durham Alumnae Delta House in Durham. As an alternative site for the camp, Rhonda Parker, director of Durham Parks and Recreation, offered the use of the W. D. Hill Recreation Center. Hedy Echard, one of the sorority members, commented that the offers for alternate sites were an example of "community support generated at the last moment."
The children barely noticed. They began their day with breakfast at the new site and a welcome by Deloris B. Hargrow, president of the Durham Alumnae Chapter, followed by a camp overview by Sharon Beard, NIEHS industrial hygienist. Then Shawn Jeter, an NIEHS technical information specialist who is also an aerobics instructor, led the children in physical exercises.
SEE (http://www.dst-durhamalumnae.org/seehome.htm) is a national initiative of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (http://www.dst-durhamalumnae.org/index.html) to encourage African-American children to gain competency and interest in science, mathematics and technology, by involving them in hands-on science activities that are fun and thought provoking. These activities demonstrate to the children that people use science and math every day.
(Laura Hall is a biologist in the NIEHS Laboratory of Pharmacology currently on detail as a writer for the Environmental Factor.)
Community Supports SEE with Volunteers and Donations
A number of participating organizations helped make this year's SEE camp a success. They include the Delta Research and Educational Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome Fund Science Enrichment Program, Durham Parks and Recreation, cSc Sheet Metal, California Pizza Kitchen, U.S. EPA, along with the leadership of the Durham Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and NIEHS.
Speakers in the adult workshop included educators from the area:
- Tonya Peele, certified wellness coach and consultant for Parents Promoting Wellness program, on health food and exercise in schools.
- Sandra White, Ph.D., director of the NCCU Center for Science, Math and Technology Education, on the Students Making Another Science Success Story (SMASSS)
- Joan Barber, Ph.D., vice chancellor for student life at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (http://www.ncssm.edu/) , on entrance requirements.
- Diane Affleck, assistant director for Mathematics and Science Education Network (MSEN) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, on the North Carolina MSEN Pre College program for sixth through 12th grades - an enrichment instruction program in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Orange County area.
- Natasha Goodwin, dean of students for the Josephine Dobbs Clement Early College High School (http://web.nccu.edu/soe/departments/ECHS/faq.htm) , on the rigorous high school program that includes college courses at NCCU.
- Kenneth A. Cutler, director of the NC Project SEED program, on opportunities for talented disadvantaged North Carolina high school students to pursue graduate and professional school degrees in chemistry-related science disciplines.