Science camp seeks to reach young minds

Author: Laura Schulte

Article appeared in Sunday, August 4 issue of the South Bend Tribune. Written by Laura Schulte.

SOUTH BEND -- At the first glance, the science lab in Notre Dame’s Jordan Hall is simply full of yelling children drawing pictures with red and blue pencils.

“We’re having fun with shapes,” one student shouts over the rest.

But on second glance, the youths in the room are learning about the scientific applications of 3-D art through making some of their own.

The 20 students who participated in the 3-D art class are only a portion of the 120 who were chosen to participate in the Arts to Science program this year.

The program accepts children from ages 8 to 13, and while they attend they’re challenged to learn new things about science through creating art.

“The theme this year is seeing the world differently,” Micha Kilburn, outreach coordinator, said. “It shows the kids that science is fun and interesting, and it’s more than just reading and memorizing things.”

Among the projects that the children did over the week that they attended are activities such as making guitars out of everyday materials, tie-dyeing shirts, and learning about famous scientists who have overcome great obstacles.

Every class was led by either a professor or graduate student, with help from local volunteers to keep the children on task.

In the 3-D art class, counselor Lesya Godfrey was the volunteer leading the drawing and learning.

“I’m teaching them about how we see depth with our eyes,” Godfrey said. “It’s very hands-on. We’re experimenting while we’re doing art.”

In some cases, the students were learning more about their favorite topics.

“We’re learning science and art,” Madeline Wise said. “They’re my favorite subjects. I like all of the classes.”

Others took advantage of the opportunity to make new friends.

“I like that I get to spend time with new friends,” Melody Bracier said. “And I liked tie-dye, because we got to play with colors.”

The students also were learning about scientists in an unconventional way — through dancing and putting on a short play.

NASA’s educations project manager for the Planck mission and University of California Santa Barbara lecturer Jatila van der Veen choreographed a three- to six-minute play for each group, teaching them about a scientist who broke barriers.

“It gives students a chance to act out physics and a little bit of fantasy,” van der Veen said. “The narration explains that through hard work, you can be a scientist.”

The dances are made to explain something that the scientist did, and the music is picked to match.

“The music chosen fits the scientist,” van der Veen said. “Some of it is music that I’ve downloaded and some of it is music from students of mine.”

At the end of the weeklong camp, the students put on a performance of their play, and get a chance to showcase the art and science they learned.

The Art to Science camp is based on a sliding scale, to make it more accessible to students who can’t afford the cover charge of the camp.

If the student qualifies for a free or reduced-cost lunch at school, then they can attend the camp for free or a reduced rate.

“We don’t think money should be a factor in kids wanting to be scientists,” Kilburn said.

The art to science camp is one of many science camps for children and teens running this summer at Notre Dame. More information on the camps can be found at