Earlier this month, students from Traner Middle School and Silver Stage Middle School spent a week at the University learning about amphibians, bees, microbes and more as part of the Daugherty Summer Science Exploration program. The five-morning summer camp brought students to campus to learn about science and what the University has to offer.
“Daugherty is really passionate about getting kids involved in science who might not otherwise be able to,” said Megan Beckam. Beckam is a Master Teacher for NevadaTeach and organized the camp, reaching out to faculty and middle school teachers, hiring two NevadaTeach interns to help lead the children during the camp, and organizing tours on campus.
“It’s free for students, and we provide a stipend to the teachers who recruit the students, do the paperwork, and sometimes bring the students here,” Beckam said. “The NevadaTeach interns also get a stipend, and the University faculty are all doing this out of the goodness of their hearts.”
The free program reaches out to teachers at Title I schools and rural schools and asks those teachers to identify students who show interest in science but may lack access to more scientific learning opportunities.
“This year we reached out to Silver Stage Middle School in Fernley, because a lot of these students haven’t had the opportunity to get onto UNR’s campus and see what the University does and what they have to offer,” Beckam said.
The program and tours, including a tour of the STEM dorm Great Basin Hall, has helped the students visualize what their lives at the University would be like.
“As the students were walking out of Great Basin, they were talking about who they wanted to be their roommates when they got to campus,” Beckam said.
The program’s themes alternate between life sciences and physical sciences each year. This year’s program included lessons on amphibians and pathogens that affect them, the Museum of Natural History and species identification, wildlife crossing bridges and citizen science apps like iNaturalist, pollinators and microbes and experiment design. The students also toured the Joe Crowley Student Union and the E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center. The program ended with a barbeque for everyone involved and parents.
One student from Fernley named Jasmin, who was looking for bees on flowers as part of their activities, said her favorite part of the program was learning about the bees.
“It’s nice to know more information that I haven’t learned yet, like how there are different sizes of bees.” Jasmin searched for bees on a plant with purple flowers. “They haven’t bloomed yet, so no bees are going towards it, but a lot of ants go towards it. That plant has a lot of bees. It has little flowers with orange pollen inside of it,” Jasmin said.
The program has been running for over a decade. When NevadaTeach began at the University, the student interns were incorporated into the program, allowing it to accommodate more students. The NevadaTeach interns gain experience by helping to plan lessons and teach the students.
“My favorite part is absolutely seeing the kids get excited about science and UNR,” Beckam said. “It helps us build connections with the local and rural communities. It’s only a week long, but it’s really impactful.”