La Verne Hosts STEM Camp for High School, Community College Students

July 31, 2014 by University of La Verne

High school students dashed up the stairs of the Mainiero Building after a coffee pit stop at Barbara’s Café. They gathered in the biology lab, began hooking each other up to EKG devices and then jotted down results in their notebooks.

Southland high school students participating in the university's STEM summer camp work at the Pomona College Organic Farm.

Southland high school students participating in the university’s STEM summer camp work at the Pomona College Organic Farm.

“We want to show the effects of stimulants on the heart,” said Dr. Jerome Garcia, biology department chairman.

It was all part of University of La Verne’s two-week Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) summer camp, which drew a dozen teens from Southland high schools and 12 students from Taft College in Kern County.

The camp has been held four times through Title V STEM grants.

“The purpose of the camp is exposing the high school students to the diversity of the natural sciences,” said Garcia, who is the STEM grant director for La Verne.

They have dissected sheep hearts, toured Jet Propulsion Laboratory, surveyed insects in the San Dimas Experimental Forest and analyzed water samples from San Antonio Creek near Mt. Baldy. They have also had classes in computer science and mathematics.

Ganesha High School students Elizabeth Flores and Jonathan Tostado haul compost at the Pomona College Organic Farm in Claremont during University of La Verne's STEM summer camp program.

Ganesha High School students Elizabeth Flores and Jonathan Tostado haul compost at the Pomona College Organic Farm in Claremont during University of La Verne’s STEM summer camp program.

That’s what drew 15-year-old Nia Rasshan’s interest. The junior from Ganesha High School in Pomona said she is drawn to computer science and engineering, as well as studying computer hardware and software.

“I hope to get more information on the (college) classes I’d take and to get the college experience,” she said.

Taft students broke off into separate groups, assisting La Verne faculty with their own research.

La Verne did not hold the camp last summer, in part, because coordinators wanted to revamp and expand the program, Garcia said.

This year, there are more areas of study, and debate exercises and competitions make up 50 percent of the session.

How does debate apply to science and technology?

Future scientists need to be able to communicate their novel ideas, Garcia said. Having skills in speech communication will help.

“It’s not really about being right or wrong, but providing different perspectives,” he said.

After the EKG exercise, students ventured over to the Pomona College Organic Farm in Claremont, where they learned about sustainable agriculture. They broke up into teams, preparing soil for planting, sifting compost and removing weeds from a watermelon patch.

Damien High School sophomore Kalani Matton, who helped with the weeding, said he signed up for the camp due to his interest in biology, but he hasn’t decided on a college major yet.

“I’m still thinking about it. I’m just trying out new things,” he said.

The camp continues until Friday.

Participants in University of La Verne's STEM summer camp gather at Pomona College Organic Farm in Claremont.

Participants in University of La Verne’s STEM summer camp gather at Pomona College Organic Farm in Claremont.

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