LU to hold science camp this weekend

Paul Jackson

Three Lawrence professors will lead local middle school children in an interactive science day camp Saturday that will focus on the similarities and differences between Earth and Mars.
The three leaders of Saturday’s program are Associate Professor of Biology Bart De Stasio, Associate Professor of Geology Marcia Bjornerud, and Lawrence Postdoctoral Fellow in Physics Joan Marler.
The day camp will be cosponsored by Lawrence and the Fox Valley JASON Project, a member of a nationwide science initiative program started by geophysicist Bob Ballard in 1989.
Ballard, who discovered the wreckage of the Titanic and also gave a convocation address at Lawrence, created the program to develop children’s interest in science and to find a way to place kids on the cutting edge of scientific research and discoveries.
The program is international in scope but, as De Stasio pointed out, different schools can change topics to be more locally relevant.
Lawrence first implemented JASON in 1993, and each year the topic of focus has been different. According to Bjornerud, these topics “usually focus on a particular place or type of setting with a particular ecosystem or geologic character.”
Past topics have been wide-ranging, including studies of Hawaii, Yellowstone, rainforests and the wetlands.
De Stasio detailed three activities — each tailored to a specific scientific discipline – in which the students will take part Saturday.
The first activity will concentrate on geology, as students will examine how maps are used to study the Earth and Mars. “Students will be able to see the latest images obtained by the Mars Global Surveyor Satellite,” said Bjornerud. They will then compare these mappings with geologic maps of Appleton and northeastern Wisconsin.
Students will then move to the second activity, concentrated in biology, where they will investigate the environmental conditions surrounding the growth of yeast. Learning about these conditions will “allow them to examine how microbes survive in extreme environments on our Earth, and what will be required to investigate life on Mars,” said De Stasio.
The final activity, focusing on physics, will allow to students to construct rockets powered by Alka-Seltzer and water as chemical propellants. In this activity, students will examine force and path trajectories, relating them to the physical aspects of space flight and exploration.
The science camp is another example of Lawrence’s dedication to maintaining involvement in Appleton and the surrounding areas, and is also a testament to the faculty’s commitment to interdisciplinary education, even at the middle school level.
As the main faculty coordinator of the camp this year, De Stasio commented on the value of his role in keeping students, in his words, “excited about science and math, especially during the middle school years.