Summer Science Camp

Summer Science programming returns, both in-person and online

After two years of virtual-only programming, the Morgridge Institute and the UW–Madison campus will once again open their doors to high school students and teachers in-person for the Summer Science Camp.

Now in its 16th year, the Summer Science Camp runs for three week-long sessions, where high school students and their teachers will get hands-on with science and explore their own science identities during their on-campus stay.

In addition to the 70 students and 14 educators attending the in-person camp, approximately 60 participants will tune in remotely for one hour every Thursday as part of the six week-long Summer Science Camp Online Workshop Series.

“We turned a challenge of the pandemic into an opportunity,” says Dan Murphy, outreach and lab manager for the Discovery Connections team which is supported in part by the Morgridge Institute. “We got feedback from the teachers and our partners that it was really great for many of them to have the flexibility of an online camp.”

Dan Murphy
Dan Murphy

The in-person camp and the online workshop will benefit from meeting concurrently on three separate occasions over the summer. The Discovery Connections team will operate these hybrid sessions with a camera set up in the room so that in-person students and the remote students can see each other.

“I’m really excited that each group will see the different modes of experience,” says Murphy. “For that one hour, they get to see each other and kind of come together.”

At the heart of the Summer Science Camp experience is building relationships between participants and top scientists in their field at Morgridge and UW–Madison.

Campers become immersed into science topics like microscopy and biomedical imaging, stem cell science, drug discovery, and more through several presentations and hands-on experiments—often using the same tools and technologies used by the research experts.

The week concludes with a science showcase where the participants become the presenters themselves by sharing what they’ve experienced to researchers and scientists in the Discovery Building.

The Summer Science Camp is a unique program in Wisconsin as it is focused on high schools in rural communities who might not typically have access to experience science at this level.

Linda Dworschack teaches middle school and high school science in the North Crawford School District, a small school located southwest of Viroqua, WI. She is always looking for unique ways to inspire her students, and she jumped on the opportunity when she first heard about the Summer Science Camp.

This will be the 4th year that she is sending five students to the camp.

“The opportunity for our students to see real science in real lab settings and to talk to researchers and grad students is pretty amazing,” she says. “It helps them see that being a scientist is attainable—and that the people are real people.”

Participating schools receive a supply stipend to purchase lab materials they normally wouldn’t have, so they can incorporate what they’ve learned at camp into their curriculum.

“It opens the channels for kids to see there are tremendous futures in science, and each different session is a way for them to dive in risk-free.”

Becky Liegl

“The teachers appreciate it because it can more than double some classroom science budgets,” says Murphy. “If they don’t have in their budget to buy a pipette, now they do.”

For those participating in the virtual camp, the opportunity of easy access to a broad spectrum of STEM fields is valuable in itself.

Waupaca teacher Becky Liegl has two daughters who have participated virtually each year the Summer Science Online Workshop Series has been offered. She sees the online camp as great experience for kids who might not have the opportunity or exposure to the many facets of science.

“It opens the channels for kids to see there are tremendous futures in science, and each different session is a way for them to dive in risk-free,” Liegl says. “They can dig into something that maybe they never knew existed or didn’t have the resources to learn about in school.”

In addition to the great personal feedback from teachers year after year, the Discovery Connections team worked with the UW–Madison Rural Education Research and Implementation Center to conduct a longitudinal survey of past summer camp participants to measure value-added beyond the camp itself. Travis Tangen, a member of the Discovery Connections team and education and outreach manager for WARF, helped design and implement the study.

Of the 56 students who participated in the survey, 85.5% said the camp had a strong influence on their education career, 71.6% said the camp made them think seriously about studying science in college, and 85.7% said the experience helped them feel like they belong in science.

For the teachers, all 47 respondents said the camp had an influence on their long-term commitment to teaching.

The first week of the program will be honorarily named the “Ed Jackson Summer Science Camp” in memory of the UW–Madison emeritus professor and chair of medical physics, who was a dedicated member of the Morgridge Scientific Advisory Board and a passionate supporter of the Summer Science Camp.

Schools participating this year include:

  • Kickapoo High School
  • North Crawford High School
  • John Edwards High School
  • Chetek-Weyerhaeuser High School
  • Wonewoc-Center High School
  • Independence High School
  • Markesan High School
  • Birchwood School District
  • Mercer School District
  • Mayville Senior High School
  • Forward Service Corporation – Upward Bound
  • McFarland High School
  • Waupaca Learning Center
  • Janesville Craig High School
  • Mauston High School
  • Solon Springs School District
  • Mineral Point High School
  • Necedah Area Schools
  • River Valley High School

Since 2007, the Summer Science Camp and the Summer Science Workshop Series have helped over 700 high school students and over 150 teachers from more than 100 state high schools. The camp has been offered free of charge thanks to the support of private donors and sponsors, including the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, BioForward, the Kathy Smith Fund, the Melita Grunow Fund, and through a grant from the National Science Foundation.