Students dive into science at summer camp

Assumption Catholic School's Super Summer Science Camp opens the world of science to youngsters.

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Fingers work around a fish as Assumption Catholic School science camp participants work to dissect a fish to learn about what's inside. Wednesday, July 20, 2011

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Sitting around the table with his dissection team, Oscar Zaheed Serrano, 6, plays with his goggles before dissecting a fish as part of an Assumption Catholic School summer science camp. Wednesday, July 20, 2011

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Dissection teammate Patrick Jones, 8, over his shoulder, James Adams, 8, sticks his tongue out as he inspects the inside of a fish's mouth before it was dissected as part of an Assumption Catholic School summer science camp. Wednesday, July 20, 2011

WALLA WALLA -- Jordan Duehn grabbed her dissection scissors, and with the skill and enthusiasm of an older scientist, began to take Coda the carp apart.

Long dead and frozen for classroom dissection, the carp was named Coda by a group of Assumption Catholic School students who were led through the science project by Duehn, 13.

Duehn was one of several older students helping lead younger Assumption schoolmates through the Super Summer Science Camp, run each year by Assumption science teacher Julie Brinson.

The science camp runs over a week at Assumption and is open to children who will be in kindergarten through fifth grades in the fall. Although it primarily draws students from Assumption, the program is open to any community children.

Brinson has coordinated and taught the camp for the last 15 years, and instructs about 50 students each summer during morning and afternoon sessions.

Brinson uses her own curriculum, and follows a different theme each summer.

This year, students explored animals, from learning about taxonomy to discovering vertebrates and invertebrates.

Although Brinson is the lead teacher, she gets help each summer from older students who serve as instructors and mentors.

Brinson said she approaches older students each year to work with her as helpers, based on her past experiences with them.

"I know which kids really love science," she said.

Duehn showed a natural inclination for scientific study as she led her small group through studying the carp from the inside out.

"Anyone want to tell me where the lower mandible, or jaw, is?" she asked the kids as they were getting oriented with their carp.

From there, Duehn worked the carp's eye out and under a microscope for the students to observe, before getting to work on the fish's insides.

Young students in other groups followed similar steps, each guided by an older student who handled most of the dissecting.

"It was kind of disgusting," said Tristan Ludwig, 9, about the dissection process. "But I enjoyed seeing the fish's organs."

Genesis Cruzaley, 14, was another helper and one of the oldest students. Cruzaley will attend DeSales Catholic High School in the fall as a freshman, but said she didn't want to pass up working with Brinson.

"I said 'I'm still going to help you either way,'" she said.

The fish dissection was done on Wednesday last week, or the third day of the four-day camp. Earlier in the week, students got to be creative and explore science in other ways.

"Yesterday we went bug-hunting," Cruzaley said. "We learned all about bugs."

The kids also got to try fish printing and painting during the week, "so they do some art and creativity, too," she said.

Cruzaley brought her own enthusiasm for science, and said she is always pleased to see younger students tackling scientific study.

"I like that all the kids seem to be really fascinated by it," Cruzaley said. "They would never get bored by it, they would want to just keep going."

And among the young students are likely future helpers for the summer science camps.

Brinson strives to maintain a strong focus on science and technology throughout the school year, even as education in public schools has shifted away from the subject over a focus on reading, math and writing.

"It's the first subject to go, really, in our school systems," Brinson said.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

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