Science can be fun, and understandable. To
demonstrate, Johns Hopkins offered 20 fourth- and
fifth-graders a weeklong experience that involved such
activities as building a baking soda volcano and
extracting DNA from cheek cells.
The inaugural Fun with Science Summer Camp gave
students from seven East Baltimore
elementary schools a hands-on immersion in basic science
through interaction with nearly two dozen
School of Medicine faculty and staff. Two officers from the
Maryland State Police's Forensics
Division also participated.
The camp, held in late June, is part of an initiative
between Johns Hopkins Medicine and the
Baltimore City Public School System to promote science
education in hopes of inspiring area students
to pursue careers in science and medicine.
During the program, the participants learned about
crystals, microscopes, DNA and chemical
reactions. Many of the demonstrations and activities
involved a healthy dose of fun. The students, for
example, made ice cream, fashioned a "molecule" out of
sticks and looked at a dollar bill under the
microscope — and were quizzed daily to reinforce
their learning. For the DNA extraction activity, the
participants had the rare pleasure of being told by an
instructor to spit in class. They rinsed salt
water in their mouths and then spit it back into a cup,
before pouring a portion of the contents into a
test tube. The students then carefully dripped rubbing
alcohol into the tube and watched their DNA
float into the alcohol layer on top.
They spent the majority of time working in labs at the
School of Medicine's Preclinical Teaching
Building. The camp also included a field trip to the
Maryland Science Center and a closing ceremony
held in Mountcastle Auditorium.
The participating schools were Fort Worthington
Elementary, Dr. Rayner Browne Elementary,
Dr. Bernard Harris Sr. Elementary, William A. Paca
Elementary, Harford Heights Intermediate and
Tench Tilghman Elementary.
The camp is part of the Johns Hopkins Community
Science Education Program, which also
includes a Community Science Day and Community Science
Fair. The program is a collaborative effort
by the Johns Hopkins Health System Office of Community
Services and the Institute for Basic
Biomedical Sciences to interest young people in science.
The Community Science days, which started in 2001,
offer hands-on workshops at the Institute
for Basic Biomedical Sciences and Sidney Kimmel
Comprehensive Cancer Research Building for fourth-
and fifth-graders from participating schools. The success
of the workshops, offered twice a year,
inspired the creation of the summer camp, said Michael
Jenkins, the program's administrator.
"Hopefully, the science camp will increase student
interest and knowledge in science education
at an early age," Jenkins said.
Johns Hopkins held its first Community Science Fair in
May. East Baltimore elementary schools
were invited to submit up to three student-created projects
that demonstrate use of the scientific
method. The entries were presented in poster format at the
School of Medicine in front of judges and
guests, and the winning school presented to senior
leadership at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Jenkins said the plan is to make the summer science
camp an annual event and possibly expand it
in subsequent years.
"Initially, our intentions are to offer the camp to
surrounding East Baltimore elementary
schools only," he said. "However, depending on community
interest and funding, it is possible that the
camp will be offered to students from other neighboring
schools in the future."