About 30 4-Hers from Nogales, Arizona visited the University of Arizona campus, and the Campus Agricultural Center for the very *first* 4-H STEM Discovery Camp this week.
"We like to come to Tucson to introduce kids to the U of A, it gets them excited about becoming a future Wildcat, and to show them the different sciences that are part of every day life,” says Amanda Zamudio, Assistant Agent in 4-H Youth Development in Santa Cruz County.
Zamudio collaborated with Dr. Jerry Lopez, Arizona 4-H’s *new* STEM Extension Specialist, to bring students from Santa Cruz County, for the all-day camp.
“It gave the kids the opportunity to see themselves here,” says Lopez. “There's a barrier, that a lot of kids from underserved areas see; they may see college as insurmountable, too overwhelming to achieve, but now they see themselves here. They’re here on campus, and it’s more realistic and attainable,” Lopez says.
Middle-schoolers, high-schoolers – and even a few community college students -were able to visit campus labs to learn about plant sciences, food safety, and even viewed Gram Stains of hand bacteria under microscopes with Lopez’s own research group.
Students were also able to observe farm animals at the Campus Agricultural Center – including horses, pigs and sheep, learn about the importance of the dairy industry, and even see cattle being vaccinated.
Students, including 14-year-old high school Freshman Jenny Peraza “loved it”.
“I think it’s very interesting. I saw pigs and sheep… It’s really fascinating because they tell you lots of interesting things…you don’t know everything about the animals you see around…It’s nice to know a little bit more,” Peraza says.
“I like 4-H because I learn things that I didn’t know. And it helps in your usual daily life. For example, if I want to be a farmer, I need to know things… this will help me learn all about this. I’m fascinated with animals…I think I want a career with animals,” Peraza says.
Peraza hopes to attend other camps…something Lopez is working toward by building partnerships with other Colleges across Campus.
“We’re hoping from this exposure, students will choose an area they’re interested in, or more interested in, and then this coming summer, attend a 3-4 day camp at the U of A,” Lopez says.
“We expose them to different areas of STEM and different majors in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences…we were able to have two main departments, the plant sciences department, and the school of animal comparative biomedical sciences. We’re able to open up the perspectives of different areas of STEM. With the high school students, especially, we’re getting them to start understanding college, and make that first connection,” Lopez says.
He says he’s also hoping to plan another STEM day camp possibly in September, and acknowledges *this* camp took a big effort, with many moving parts.
“There’s a lot of great people out there who helped. It’s a collective effort,” Lopez says.
“I want to thank Dr. Duarte Diaz, Ashley Wright, Kyle Nicol and his team, and Kasee Richardson who provided the sessions in Dairy, Livestock, and Equine respectively; Dr. Sadhana Ravishankar’s research group who demonstrated their research projects on food safety, Dr.Ravi Palanivelu’s team who illustrated the importance of pollen in plants, and my group for demonstrating Gram staining of hand bac," Lopez says.
"This STEM experience could not have been possible without Amanda Zamudio and her team making the effort to bring their 4-Hers to the UA," Lopez says.
Zamudio says support came from others, as well.
“Funding for the trip was made possible through the 4-H National Mentoring Program, sponsored by O.J.J.D.P., or the Office of Juvenile Justice and Detention Prevention and the National 4-H Council,” Zamudio says.