6/23/16 Students conduct research, have some fun at first Discover Science Camp

THE JOYS OF SCIENCE

Students from the Alamance-Burlington School System’s Discover Science Camp hike through the Shallow Ford Natural Area on Wednesday.

Photos by Sam Roberts / Times-News

Students from the Alamance-Burlington School System’s Discover Science Camp hike through the Shallow Ford Natural Area on Wednesday.

Students conduct research, have some fun at first Discover Science Camp
By Jessica Williams The Times-News 6/23/16  
Reprinted with permission.  

   We’re surrounded by animals frozen in mid-action. A bobcat is snarling its yellow teeth, the barn owl is spreading its long wings and a woodchuck is standing upright as if it’s curious about the group of students sitting in front of it.

   Former Hillcrest Elementary Principal Robin Woody has brought along his taxidermy collection to share with the group of 28 students participating in Wednesday’s activities at Shallow Ford Natural Area — just another day for ABSS’s Discover Science Camp for rising seventh- and eighth-graders.

   The five-day camp, which is in its first year, is funded in full by the National Science Foundation as part of the Students Discover grant earned by ABSS in conjunction with N.C. State University, the N.C. Museum of Natural Science and the Kenan Fellowship with NCSU. Since Monday, students have been collecting scientific data to be used by scientists at the museum and at NCSU.

   But the work doesn’t seem grueling at all.

Alamance-Burlington School System’s Discover Science Camp students comb a creek bed in search of macro invertebrates within Shallow Ford Natural Area Wednesday.  
Alamance-Burlington School System’s Discover Science Camp students comb a creek bed in search of macro invertebrates within Shallow Ford Natural Area Wednesday.  
Alamance-Burlington School System’s Discover Science Camp students listen as Robin Woody, left, identifies the leaf of a sweet-gum tree within Shallow Ford Natural Area Wednesday.  
Alamance-Burlington School System’s Discover Science Camp students listen as Robin Woody, left, identifies the leaf of a sweet-gum tree within Shallow Ford Natural Area Wednesday.  

   They’re also having a lot of fun. On Monday, they tested different types of ant bait to learn more about what ants like to eat. On Tuesday, they set up cameras as part of the “eMammal project” to observe different wildlife like foxes and coyotes that come out at night, but Friday is the grand finale. They’ll be going to the Natural Science Museum in Raleigh and the N.C. State campus, which many of the kids are excited about.

   Alexis Brooks, one of the camp’s 30 students, said, “My favorite part about this camp [is] coming here and exploring all this nature and learning about the different trees … and I’m really excited about Friday and I just love to learn and I like science a lot.”

   Maggie Boyd, sporting a bright red “Wolfpack” T-shirt as she hiked down the trail, said she’s most excited about visiting N.C. State since she wants to attend the college for its fashion design program in the future.

   The teachers are excited too. There are five ABSS teachers participating in the camp: Melaine Rickard from Western Middle, Dayson Pasion from Graham Middle, Kimberly Hall from Southern Middle and Nate Bourne and Jordan Hohm from Broadview Middle. Each one earned NCSU Kenan Fellowships.

   But no one is more invested than Woody, who lights up as he stops in the middle of the trail to talk about a sweet gum leaf, or as he answers the students’ questions about the twisting black rat snake he’s brought along to show them. Since his retirement from ABSS, he’s made it a personal goal to educate kids about wildlife and get them outside more.

   “I’m an old science teacher. I started out with a degree in wildlife biology and science education and I taught for five years, then got into administration. So I’m coming full-circle back,” he said. “It’s my desire, now that I’m retired, to have an environmental education center here in Alamance County and this is part of the effort.”

   Since there is no environmental center yet, he works with what he has: parks, classrooms and his own knowledge of North Carolina wildlife. The most important thing is just getting the kids outdoors.

   “I grew up on the river and these kids, they’re sitting in air conditioning and [playing video games] all day long,” Woody said. “So I’m trying to break that cycle and get them more in the outdoors to try and raise their curiosity about things going on around them.”

   He’s certainly accomplished that. Hands go up every time he brings a new animal out to show them. The students are full of questions and marveling over the different wildlife in their own backyards.