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Verizon Foundation Funds ‘Young Scientists’ Camp’ for Homeless Children at Villages at Cabrillo

Published: August 2, 2010

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For the third consecutive year, homeless children served by the Mary McLeod Bethune Transitional Center at the Villages at Cabrillo in Long Beach are learning about science during a two-week Young Scientists’ Camp funded by a $30,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation.

Organized by the Department of Science Education at CSULB, the camp meets in half-day sessions through Aug. 6, and is adapted from the highly successful Young Scientists’ Camp offered to the public each summer on the CSULB campus.

“I love being able to bring the science camp to kids who could never come otherwise,” said CSULB Science Education Department Chair Laura Henriques. The Bethune Center is operated by Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) 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.

The Bethune program supports up to 90 children in three groups for grades K-2, 3-5 and 6-8, Henriques said. The teaching staff includes credentialed science teachers along with CSULB teacher education students who have experience working at the university’s summer science camp.

Camp activities are aimed at the different grade levels. “Our kindergarten through second-graders will do ‘Amazing Animals,’ and the third- through fifth-graders are doing ‘Things That Fly,’ that will include rockets, planes and kites, as well as bugs and birds. Sixth- through eighth-graders will have a ‘Crime Scene Investigation’-type focus again,” Henriques said.

CSULB program instructors learned to structure each day’s lessons to be stand-alone because the Bethune students come and go. Moreover, since the camp is in the morning, “We’ve partnered with the Long Beach Boys and Girls Club so that there is afternoon programming for the kids because most of them need to be out of the shelters all day,” she said.

The camp is designed to interest the children in science concepts and careers, something they rarely consider, Henriques said, adding that by the end of previous camps, many of the students were more aware and attracted to learning more.

Last year’s event brought a visiting scientist and animals from Inside the Outdoors, sponsored by the Orange County Department of Education, while Long Beach Police Department and California Highway Patrol officers spoke to the sixth- through eighth-grade group about crime scene investigations.

“This is a wonderful program provided by CSULB that puts Cal State teachers and students in front of one of the most important student populations at the Long Beach Unified School District—the children at Bethune. It’s a science learning opportunity they would not have without the commitment of the CSULB Department of Science Education,” said Mike Murray, director of government and external affairs for Verizon.

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 provides science books and other curriculum materials for the Bethune Center classrooms.

–Anne Ambrose