Summer Camps Teach Science, Farming
Summer Camps Teach Science, Farming
Posted on 07/26/2018
Two students look excitedly at caterpillars on a tree.A group of students and Dr. Irene Rossell, chair of the UNCA Environmental Studies Department, look at an insect on a plant.By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

At Buncombe County Schools, learning doesn’t stop just because it’s summertime.

In addition to reading and math camps at our schools, we teamed up with UNC Asheville and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension to provide exciting summer camps for our students in the Migrant Education Program (MEP).

SCIENCE ON THE MOVE

This week and next week, 30 sixth- through 12th-graders are taking part in UNC Asheville’s first-ever “Science on the Move” summer program, funded with a Burroughs Wellcome grant. The program exposes rural and migrant students to hands-on science, said Dr. Irene Rossell, chair of the UNCA Environmental Studies Department and director of the camp.

“This gives them something exciting to do during the summer and shows them that science is really a blast,” she said. “They’re being creative and having a great time.”

The camp’s theme is Food for Thought. Students are taking part in experiments with food chemistry, hands-on lessons in campus gardens and grounds, collecting and identifying beneficial and harmful insects, investigating plant root architecture and water flow through different types of soil, germinating seeds, and sampling edible wild plants. Science professionals are stopping by to talk about careers in science.

On Wednesday, campers caught insects in a wildlife habitat on campus, used leaves and herbs to make dyes, and honed their digital drawing techniques in the university’s New Media Lab.

Natalia, a rising ninth-grader, said she enjoyed painting with pigments, which she extracted from fruits.

“That was really cool,” she said. “We painted a huge orange with pigments from actual oranges.”

Christian, a rising sixth-grader, had a great time catching bugs in a jar and studying them back in the classroom.

“I learned that insects are cold-blooded,” he said. “That means they can only move when it’s warm, so it was harder to find them in the morning.”

This camp teaches students how to understand, talk about, and share science with the community, said BCS Migrant Education Coordinator Ina Gonzalez Jones.

“They don’t have to pursue a career in science, but we want them to see how it works and know all the options,” she said. “This camp is a wonderful opportunity.”

Jessica Sanchez, of Rusted Earth Farm, demonstrates how to make wool designs.4-H LOCAL FOODS CAMP

Last week, third- through sixth-grade MEP students joined local 4-H clubs for a three-day Local Foods Camp, organized by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension (NCCE). With summer heating up, ice cream was the refreshing theme. Campers visited a local dairy farm, another farm that produces fresh, local ingredients for the Hop Ice Creamery, and a dairy processing facility.

They also took a detour from the theme at Rusted Earth Farm & Studio near Leicester. Jessica Sanchez, the owner and operator, preserves heritage sheep breeds and make textile art products.

“Having the kids out here, teaching them about the sheep and where the fiber comes from, that’s exciting,” she said. “I’m glad they were interested and had questions to ask me.”

Lupita, 11, said she had a lot of fun at the camp.

“I really like animals, so I enjoyed being there,” she said. “It was a great experience to see all the farms. They’re really different and cool.”

Trent, a 13-year-old 4-H member, said he enjoyed the dairy farm, because his family runs a small farm with longhorn cows and goats.

“I’ve always been interested in owning a dairy farm,” he said. “That would be cool.”

NCCE 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent Holly Jordan said she and other agents wanted to expand their yearly summer camp to include more kids. After speaking to Jones, the camp invited MEP students to join.

“They’re getting to see how farmed products make their way from farm to processing to market,” she said. “It’s pretty eye-opening and shows the connection between farms and the economy.”


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The Migrant Education Program is a federally funded program that assists children and youth whose families have moved to Buncombe County within the last three years in search of work in agriculture. MEP serves youth ages 3-21 who have not yet completed high school. Its services are free for students and their families.

A group of students and a dog pose for a picture.
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