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Outreach: GALS Summer Camp


September 15, 2017

For the past three summers, Sarah Titus from Carleton College, has run a one-week summer camp for local middle school girls as part of the outreach for her EAR-CAREER grant. The camp is called GALS, which stands for Girls’ Adventures in Learning Science. She teaches this camp along with four female undergraduate geology majors – in total, 11 different women have worked in this Teaching Assistant (TA) role. They target middle-school girls because studies show this is the age when girls lose interest in science. 

Each day, one of the undergraduate TAs oversees the mixture of activities focused on a single theme such as “Minnesota used to be under a sea” or “Minnesota used to have glaciers.” They might run experiments, solve puzzles, show demonstrations, play games, look at samples, make posters, sing science songs, all related to theme for the day. Even lunch-packing can be geology-related – each of the layers of the sandwich forms a stratigraphy. The daily highlight is a field trip. They visit a gravel quarry with its mountains of sand (to ski down), an excellent fossil-hunting road-cut, and a park with a stream running along bedrock, a waterfall, and a huge glacial erratic boulder. 

GALS is an exceptionally rewarding experience, for Sarah, for the TAs, and from what they can tell, the girls. Sarah’s favorite thing about teaching this age-group is their joy of being outside. The girls always take of their shoes to play in the stream and stand on the waterfall’s edge. Her undergraduate students never do that. She has also been impressed at how clever they are – they solve puzzles designed for her own college-level Introductory Geology course, making connections between field trips and the puzzles. For the TAs, the experience of being the lead teacher is empowering – they have to figure out how to distill the theme into activities, how to answer questions at the right level, and how to make science interesting. For the girls, evaluations give us a good sense that they enjoy the camp. They say things like “It showed me it is fun being a scientist” and “It made science seem really active, which is good.” And they offered advice for how to improve the camp in the future: “make it last longer.”

Teaching Assistants lead a discussion about rock types along a local road cut
Girls make sketches of sand and gravel layers from glacial outwash at a local quarry
Students using hexbugs to make “trace fossils” in sand
Student finds a brachiopod in Ordovician rocks
Students using flubber to run experiments on glacial flow
The 2016 summer class posing in front of a glacial erratic boulder
Students playing in a local stream

For more photos from previous years, visit these links:
GALS Photos 2016
GALS Photos 2015
GALS Photos 2014

For more information contact Sarah Titus.

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date. Originally published Oct. 3, 2016.

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