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Middle School Students Experiment with STEM During USciences Camp

By Nicole Carrera

Published on August 12, 2021

Seventh and Eighth grade students from St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia participated in a two-week long STEM camp hosted by USciences faculty and student volunteers. The camp, which was organized by Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience Maggie Panning Pearce, PhD, was funded by a donation from the Connelly Foundation, which works closely with Catholic Schools in Philadelphia. 

“We’re trying to expose them to things that they may have actually already heard about, especially with the pandemic for the last year,” explained Dr. Pearce. “They’ve been learning about the central dogma of life. We’ve gone through many activities looking at DNA, RNA, mRNA, and proteins.” 

Students completed many experiments over the course of the camp with the help of USciences student volunteers. They also had the chance to learn from faculty members. Aside from Dr. Pearce, Greg Thielman, PT, MSPT, ATC, EdD, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy and Neuroscience, and Jason Heindl, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology, were guest lecturers for the middle school students. 

Abby White Neuro’22 volunteered to help during the camp, assisting students with hands-on activities. 

“They’ve been asking really amazing questions so far and, I think, shocking all of us with their curiosity,” shares White. “We’re always trying to push to keep kids interested in STEM and research. It’s been really fun watching all of them interact and come out of their shell.”

“I was excited to come here mainly because I got to learn and do some hands-on experiments. We did more in depth things than we would have done in the seventh grade classroom,” said Stacey Reese, a seventh grade student at St. Francis. “My favorite experiment was when we tested for glucose levels. We found that the liquids with the highest glucose levels were glucose and cow’s milk.”

The goal of the camp is to spark an interest in kids for the sciences as they approach high school and begin thinking about their futures. Other departments from Misher College of Arts and Sciences hosted virtual events with St. Francis students throughout the spring semester. 

“I’m hoping that this experience gives them a unique opportunity to look at science as fun and exciting and that there's still a lot that we need to understand, so hopefully many of them will go into STEM careers,” said Dr. Pearce. 

While she still has a few years to figure it out, Reese has big dreams and an interest in science already. “I have a couple of different [dream jobs] but if i had to choose it would either be a surgeon or a news anchor,” she said. 

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