Developing fun new science camps for kids

Crows flocking to UW Bothell
Crows flocking to roost at UW Bothell. Marc Studer

When grade school students flock to the UW Bothell campus this summer for Pacific Science Center camps they will have a new option focused on the feathered residents — Crows: Caws and Effect.

The camp will combine science and art to explore how crows communicate and gather food. Sarah Verlinde in the Office of Research is developing the camp, building on the research of faculty members Ursula Valdez and Doug Wacker.

Valdez, a lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, and Wacker, an assistant professor in the School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM), were featured speakers at Crow Watch 2018. It was a standing-room-only event last October. Members of the community learned about crows and saw thousands of them fly into roost in the nearby wetlands.

“We saw how interested people were in the crows. We thought this would be a good way to highlight faculty research,” said Carolyn Brennan, assistant vice chancellor of research.

Crows: Caws and Effect is the latest Pacific Science Center camp developed by faculty and staff and then taught by UW Bothell students. The first was a Java coding camp that grew out of Kelvin Sung’s research on teaching computer programming by having students design video games. Sung is a professor in the School of STEM.

This camp has been very popular “and consistently a good experience for students and parents,” Brennan said.

Boy with a headset at VR summer camp. Marc Studer

Sung followed that with a VR Hackathon camp, where students learn the concepts of virtual reality in a fun environment. Assistant Professor Marc Dupuis added Cyber Sleuths, where campers learn how to protect information while they explore hacking.

“We love working with UW Bothell because of their focus on tech, especially computer science,” said Jenny Hughes, youth and family programs supervisor for the Pacific Science Center.

The center has been holding summer camps on campus since 2012 and running UW Bothell-developed curricula since 2016, Hughes said. It is excited to expand with Crows: Caws and Effect and to create more opportunities for campers and their parents, university students and the high school interns who assist, she said.

Girll at VR camp
Girl working on laptop during VR camp. Mark Studer

UW Bothell is one of eight locations in the Seattle area where the center offers a variety of science camps for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. For each of six weeklong camps at UW Bothell, the center typically sends about 20 children to campus. That’s about 120 children a week over three weeks during the summer break.

The university does not develop all the camp curricula. Some other options are Make Sense of It (about our senses), Magician’s Dilemma (the science and math behind tricks and illusions), Amusement Park Physics, Weather or Not, Tech-Mate (chess and computer science) and Zombie Survival School.

The four camps developed by UW Bothell are not restricted to the campus and may be held at other locations. Faculty train UW Bothell students to teach, and the science center hires them. This year, Brennan said, students from UW Bothell clubs also will make presentations at camps on astronomy, robotics and entrepreneurship. Other campers may bus to UW Bothell for a day for those presentations or for environmental lessons from Alexa Russo, campus sustainability coordinator.

Boy working on laptop during VR camp
Boy working on laptop during VR camp. Marc Studer

A valuable experience for university students with a big impact on campers, the camps also are an opportunity to showcase UW Bothell, Brennan said. Last year, the university offered tours to parents of science labs in Discovery Hall, the micro technology clean room and the electron-scanning microscope. This year, the university plans to host the high school interns from all the center camps for a day. They’ll hear from UW Bothell camp instructors and, at a time when they are thinking about college, get a campus tour.

“I want people to understand what a hidden gem we have here and how great the research of our faculty and students really is,” Brennan said. “And we found that people are interested in what’s happening here.”

Pacific Science Center summer camps developed by UW Bothell:

Camp NameDatesLocation
Java Coding and Video Games (girls only)July 15-19Pacific Science Center
Java Coding and Video GamesJuly 22-26Pacific Science Center
Cyber SleuthsJuly 29-Aug. 2Pacific Science Center
Crows: Caws and EffectAug. 5-9UW Bothell
VR Hackathon (girls only)Aug. 5-9UW Bothell
VR HackathonAug. 12-16UW Bothell
Java Coding and Video GamesAug.12-16UW Bothell
Java Coding and Video GamesAug. 19-23UW Bothell
Cyber SleuthsAug. 19-23UW Bothell

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