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Verizon Funds ‘Young Scientists’ Camp’ for Homeless Children

Published: July 15, 2009

For the second consecutive year, homeless children served by the Mary McLeod Bethune Transitional Center at the Villages at Cabrillo in Long Beach can learn about science during a two-week Young Scientists’ Camp funded by a $25,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation.

Organized by CSULB’s Department of Science Education, the camp will meet in half-day sessions from July 27-Aug. 7, and is adapted from the highly successful Young Scientists’ Camp offered to the public each summer on the CSULB campus.

“I love the science camp and I love being able to bring it to kids who could never come otherwise,” said Science Education Department Chair Laura Henriques. “Even if we had scholarships, they couldn’t come to campus; their parents don’t have cars. Because they’re homeless, they may or may not be in the same place multiple days in a row, so being able to bring it to Bethune and the Villages at Cabrillo is great.” The Bethune Center is operated by Long Beach Unified School District to serve children of families at the Villages at Cabrillo, a comprehensive social services community in west Long Beach. Children at the center receive educational services and testing before entering a regular LBUSD school.

“This year, I’m very happy that we got additional funding from Verizon to be able to split them into three groups, so we have groups for grades K-2, 3-5 and 6-8. We’ll be able to work with up to 90 kids,” Henriques said. “Our instructors are experienced credentialed teachers who are good mentors, and we have three of them this year,” Henriques said. “Two are from Long Beach Unified and one is in our master’s program. Then, the teaching associates who work with them are our prospective teachers, both elementary and secondary, but they had to have worked at least once at the science camp here on campus.”

Camp activities are aimed at the different grade groups,” Henriques explained. “The littlest ones will study ‘Creepy Crawlers,’ so they’ll do a different critter every day. There will be ladybugs and worms and mealworms and spiders—whatever they find outside. With all of the grades, there’s a strong emphasis on them doing science, so it’s very hands-on. They keep a science lab notebook. We do a pre- and post-assessment both in terms of science content but also their concepts of science. Most of them have never used a magnifier before or aren’t really good with measuring, so we teach those sorts of skills as well.



“The middle-level grades will be ‘Back Yard Biologists,’ so they’ll be doing ecosystems and probably a little overlap with some of the critters that live out there. They also look at plants and how things go together and seeing that even in a crack in the sidewalk, there is some science there. The sixth- through eighth-graders will do a crime scene investigator-type of unit.”

She said the CSULB program instructors learned from last year’s camp that each day’s lessons need to generally stand alone because the Bethune students come and go.

“We’re more concerned with them getting excited about science and thinking about science careers and opportunities,” Henriques said. “The first day of camp, we ask them what they want to be when they grow up and none of them had even remotely considered math, science or engineering, and by the end, there were still quite a few who said they wanted to be a professional basketball player, but ‘If I can’t be that, maybe I want to be a criminologist or I want to be an entomologist.’ But, they had thought about things they never thought of before—that bugs are cool, and fingerprints and hair samples and all of the things they looked at are interesting. They did codes and learned how to use compasses and had to find clues to help solve mysteries.”

Students also receive a white shirt with the camp name that they can wear to school, along with a notebook and small science tools like magnifiers and cardboard binoculars. The grant also is providing science books and other curriculum materials for the Bethune Center classrooms.

“Working with Cal State Long Beach is an honor for Verizon,” said Mike Murray, director of government and external affairs for Verizon. “Cal State makes a difference in children’s lives every day, and with the students from Bethune, they’re making a difference in the lives of students who need it more than most. It’s a chance to learn they would not have had, had it not been for CSULB’s commitment to educational opportunity and the highest social responsibility.”