Indiana State University Newsroom



Summer science activities offer hands-on learning for students of all ages

August 14, 2014

From using forensics to rebuild a cadaver's face to creating clouds in a jar, Indiana State University rolled out the red carpet for hands-on science learning this summer.

The 45th Summer Honors Program offered high-achieving high school students a first taste of college life, and the Summer Science Camp for elementary students provided additional learning during the youngsters' off-time.

Of nearly 400 applicants, less than half are accepted in Summer Honors, said Brooke Huser, an admissions counselor at the Indiana State Welcome Center. The lucky few are able to choose from 15 different week-long seminars, this year running July 20-26. Programs are based on majors offered at Indiana State and include aviation, nursing and theatre.

"(This experience has) really gotten me to learn to communicate more," said Thea Bowman High junior Caitlyn Skinner of Gary. "I'm usually a quiet, closed person and then I got here and it's like I'm on my own. I can't have my mom introduce me and stuff like that, so I'm taking care of myself. I'm being more adventurous."

Skinner, like many other Summer Honors students, first heard about the program through a postcard in the mail. She initially didn't have much interest in attending because of plans to pursue attending a different university. But upon discovering a forensic program was offered, she was on board.

Shawn Phillips, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences and practicing forensic anthropologist, taught the forensic anthropology seminar. His students spent the week learning ways to determine different bone structures and constructed facial muscles and skin out of clay onto artificial skulls.

"Facial reconstruction in and of itself is for recognition of an unknown crime victim," Phillips said. "For this class, it's just to introduce them to methodologies. A lot of this type of scientific approach is being able to interpret variation and having methods to apply interpretation and be able to follow through and complete the project. This is just a good method for them to get their hands (dirty) with that."

"I've learned a lot of new stuff," Skinner said. "At my school, I haven't really gotten into a lot of anatomy, so this was my first time learning the names of bones and muscles."

Students interested in genomics had the opportunity to work with DNA and RNA extractions, analyzing data and isolating and comparing genes. This type of lab work is rare for high school students because of steep lab expenses. The Center for Community Engagement's Unbounded Possibilities and the Lilly Endowment funded equipment purchases for Indiana State's Center for Genomic Advocacy, making the experience possible for Summer Honors.

"Going into research lab (and being able to) conduct high-level research as first-semester freshman doesn't happen at a lot of other universities," said Rusty Gonser, associate professor of biology. "Summer Honors gives them a look in the window at what their future might be."

Experiences such as these not only make Indiana State unique in what it has to offer potential students, but also it prepares them for future endeavors.

"Each year we'll have about 180 students attend, and this past year we had 65 students enroll (at Indiana State) the next year," Huser said. "So they get this great idea of what it means to be a college student, but more specifically what it means to be a Sycamore."

On a more playful side of hands-on activities, Indiana State Center for Science Education's Summer Science Camp took place July 23-Aug. 7.

Students ranging from kindergarten to seventh grade enjoyed participating in different scientific activities on campus. They even had the opportunity to meet several scientists who served as guest speakers.

Elementary education majors who are enrolled in the science teaching methods course, taught by associate professor of science education Eulsun Seung, developed inquiry-based science lesson plans for each of their three groups of K-2, 3-4 and 5-7 campers.

DeVaney Elementary teacher Hannah Mickelson was one of the three professionals who supervised elementary education students, including Jessica Qualls, a senior from Indianapolis, and Sarah Molter, a senior from Kentland.

"We are trying to teach them that science is fun, it can be a good thing to learn, and it's good for our planet for people to go into the science field," Qualls said.

Camp students created tornadoes and clouds in jars, learned how to classify different species of animals and learned how the position of the earth affects the seasons, among doing other activities.

The camp also featured field trips to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods' White Violet Center, Dobbs Park Nature Center and Connor Prairie historic village in Fishers. Students learned about animals, conservation and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) practices throughout history.

"I love (Summer Science Camp) so much, because this is something that we don't have time in our day in school to teach," Mickelson said. "So these kids are getting experiences that other kids will never get in Vigo County schools or anywhere else."

Not only is the Summer Science Camp implementing curiosity within elementary students, but it is also giving Indiana State students actual classroom experience.

"With science, you have to think of all the questions they may ask, and you have to become an expert on what you are teaching for that day," Molter said. "It was a wonderful experience."

Mickelson agrees.

"It's really good for students because in their Indiana State education, they go out into the schools and they're in one grade through the whole semester," she said. "And to have kids that are K-2 in the same room, they are really about to see what the difference is between a kindergartener and a second grader. They've got to adjust their lessons to meet all of those kids' needs, and it's similar because when they have their own classrooms someday, they're going to have kids at all levels and they're going to have to find ways to reach the lowest kids and the highest kids and make it engaging for everybody. So it's a really good skill for them to practice."

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Photos: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Events-by-Year/2014/Summer-Honors-2014/i-7ZvJJgJ/0/XL/July%2024%2C%202014%20NSO%202226-XL.jpg - Students work to reconstruct the face of an artificial skull during Indiana State's 45th Summer Honors Program.

http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Events-by-Year/2014/Summer-Honors-2014/i-SwG5whW/0/XL/July%2024%2C%202014%20NSO%202231-XL.jpg -- Students work to reconstruct the face of an artificial skull during Indiana State's 45th Summer Honors Program.

http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Events-by-Year/2014/Science-Camp-2014/i-vWtvqVZ/0/XL/July%2024%2C%202014Science%20Camp%201574-XL.jpg - A youngster at Indiana State's Summer Science Camp checks out a display case filled with arrowheads.

http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Events-by-Year/2014/Science-Camp-2014/i-4W7Sp2r/0/XL/July%2028%2C%202014%20Camp%203449-XL.jpg - Students work on an experiment at Indiana State's Summer Science Camp.

Contact: Shawn Phillips, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at Indiana State, 812-237-2070 or Shawn.Phillips@indstate.edu, or Eulsun Seung, associate professor of chemistry and physics, 812-237-7727 or Eulsun.Seung@indstate.edu.

Writer: Sadie All, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or sall@sycamores.indstate.edu.

Story Highlights

The 45th Summer Honors Program offered high-achieving high school students a first taste of college life, and the Summer Science Camp for elementary students provided additional learning during the youngsters' off-time.

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