CReSIS camp brings middle school students to ECSU

Kesha Williams
July 06, 2009

If you've never associated discussions of the Dismal Swamp and polar ice sheets with summer camp, it's time for a summer camp update.

Area middle school students learned about the Dismal Swamp and the melting polar ice sheets while attending the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets CReSIS) summer camp at Elizabeth City State University. Mrs. Wanda Hathaway, an Elizabeth City Middle School science teacher, was one of the camp's teachers. As the youths huddled in teams inside a Lane Hall classroom, Hathaway quizzed them of information covered during the camp. Quickly, students raised their hands to answer her questions. Hathaway gleamed with pride at their eager responses and their excitement about the camp.

"We talked about the role of the swamp, a natural filter for nature. Swamps receive the overflow after torrential rain and storms. Swamps sustain life for the environment so we have to take care of them; don't pollute them and don't cut down all the trees in the swamp," Hathaway said. "It's good to see them here learning about the area they live in. Camps like these help them prepare for the science classes they will register for in the fall."

Dr. Linda Hayden, the director of the Center of Excellence for Remote Sensing Education and Research at ECSU, hosts the summer camp for youths. Federal funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF) covers the camp expenses. As scientists around the world study changes in polar ice sheets, youths are learning how the resulting changes in sea levels will impact their adult lives.

Eighteen students came from River Road and Elizabeth City Middle Schools and Central Middle School (Gates County) to attend the two-week camp. The students completed science experiments, water quality test, and cruised the coast of Virginia on a dolphin watch. Twelve guests from Winston-Salem State University's Girls Empowered by Math and Science (GEMS) joined the youths at ECSU for last Friday's science demonstrations. Charles Rencsok, a Virginia Air and Space Center museum educator, demonstrated how various sources of energy can be generated and used to power robots, lights and more.

Fellow CReSIS camp teacher, Mr. Carl Seward is a teacher in the Portsmouth, Virginia public schools. Seward said the CReSIS camp is a good way to actively involve students in two of the most challenging subjects they will face in the fall.

"We are trying to expose all students, particularly ladies to the STEM area-- science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Here they are exposed to science applications, various scientific demonstrations, Global Training Positioning systems and related maps," Seward said. "These are middle school students from the public schools who are already thinking about college [enrollment]. Some will now consider college majors they may not have considered before attending the camp."

Dedrick Dunston, a camp participant will enter high school next year. This year marks the second time he has attended the camp and is considering a career as a science teacher.

"The program helped me prepare for my science end of grade test last year. I'm looking forward to my next science class in high school. If I had not attended the camp, I would have been home this summer," Dunston said. "This is better than sitting on the couch. This is a place where they accept middle school students and we can learn more about science."