Applications taken for math and science camp

Program targets students from under-represented groups
Apr. 05, 2014 @ 11:58 PM

Walters State's summer math and science camp for current seventh and eighth graders is taking applications. It comes to the Sevierville campus July 21-25.

The camp is funded by a diversity grant from the state, and the ultimate goal is to attract students from under-represented groups to careers in fields related to math or science. Those groups include students whose parents did not complete college, minorities, low-income students and girls.

"People from those backgrounds will come first, but if more spots are available, we will expand to include others," Dr. Julianna Gregory, coordinator of mathematics at the Sevier County Campus and professor of mathematics, said. "Just because a child is from a family with parents who went to college, that doesn't necessarily exclude them."

Each camp has 20 available spots, and the Sevierville camp currently most of its spots open. According to Gregory, the goal of the camp is to strengthen interest in the subject for those students who attend, because many students start to lose interest in school around the middle school age.

"We want them to go into high school thinking that there's some really fun stuff to do with math and science," Gregory said. "Our science teachers are very good; the chemistry attracts a lot of people and you'll hear them say, 'Wow, you can do that with chemistry, that's cool.'"

At the camp, students will take part in unique activities that are not often completed in the classroom.

"On the math side, we primarily deal with data collection and modeling with data to find what kinds of equations fit with that data, but it's all done through games and experiments," Gregory said. "For example, we have Barbie Doll bungee jumping, to see how far the Barbie falls and how many rubber bands are used. We build bridges with spaghetti and see how many pennies it will hold."

Although she does not know with certainty how effective the camp is in the long run, Gregory said she has heard some immediate feedback from teachers.

"(Students) leave here excited, and we usually hear from a couple of teachers during the next year, when they get to topics we've studied, and the students we had are still excited," she said. "Hopefully they maintain the idea that college is a possible reality. The state is tracking that information to see if they can find any difference, how many are going to college and what colleges they go to. So at some point maybe that will tell us something."

Gregory has worked at the camp since it began, about five years ago, and she said she enjoys working with middle-school children each summer.

"My favorite part is just the energy from the kids," she said. "Everything is so hands-on. It's nice to be able to engage in those activities with an age group that's not the norm for what I do. I do have a background with this age group, and it's nice to get back to that."

In addition to Gregory, camp leaders are Elena Owen, assistant professor of math and physics; Dr. Kay Moneyhun, coordinator of mathematics for the Greeneville/Greene County Campus and professor of mathematics; Dr. Crystal Rice, associate professor of mathematics; Dr. Matthew Smith, assistant professor of chemistry; and Dr. William Sproat, associate professor of biology.

To apply, visit ws.edu/academics/mathematics/resources or contact Tammy Holt (423-585-6864,  Tammy.Holt@ws.edu). Students should ask a math teacher for a letter of recommendation. Applications must be postmarked by May 2.

"This is not for catching up in math; this is for someone who is interested in math," Gregory said. "They don't have to have straight As, but they have to have shown their teacher enough initiative that they would benefit."

Camps will meet each day from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Students will receive a free T-shirt at the camp, and lunch and snacks will be provided.

The camp includes a field trip to the ETSU and General Shale Natural History Museum and Gray Fossil Site. The camp will also be held at the Walters State campuses in Morristown and Greeneville from July 14-18, and Claiborne County campus from July 21-25.

jold@themountainpress.com