WESS Juniors Plan Virtual Summer Camp


Elizabeth Alton

Planning the perfect summer as a student can be a difficult feat. The right mix between socialization, fun, and intellectual stimulation is critical when budgeting those sacred two months off from school. Tamara Houck (‘22) and Jaqueline Lovci (‘22) have decided to spend their summer running a science summer camp, Zooming into Science, for middle schoolers that promises to provide a mix of the aforementioned elements.

Both Houck and Lovci have siblings in middle school, and saw the creation of a summer program as an opportunity to craft a program for students like their sisters, who are looking for a low pressure, exciting environment to learn about science this summer. 

The idea first presented itself to Houck as she went through the process of applying to a science intensives for high school students. She realized that the same programs, especially virtually during the pandemic, aren’t as readily available to middle school students.  

“I was applying for a program at Cornell over the summer, and I realized ‘this is only available for high schoolers, there’s no such thing for middle schoolers that’s really well done and has tons of hands on experience over the pandemic,’” Houck said. “I thought it would be so much cooler if I made my own program compared to just doing a premade one.”

The program will run for three weeks from July 19th to August 6th with each week focusing on a certain area of science. Students will have the option to register for one week, two weeks, or all three depending on their interests. Week one will be a dive into the science of medicine, week two will be marine biology, and week three will be dedicated to space.

The program will run about three hours a day starting with a fifty minute lesson, which will be followed by a discussion and hands-on activity. At the end of each week an expert in the week’s specialized field will come in to talk discuss their work with the campers.

While the target demographic for the program is rising middle schoolers, all students who are passionate about science are welcome to attend. 

“We’re looking for students who are really interested in science and the physical aspects of science,” Lovci said. “There is a lot of stuff that we learned over COVID that we didn’t necessarily get to see physically. [Houck and I] are taking AP chem right now, and it’s been really tough to figure out chemical reactions and equations without necessarily being able to see what that looks like. So because we’re able to translate something that’s virtual into a physical activity for students, I think it’s going to be really cool.”

As they will be operating in a virtual environment the team is aiming to create a deeper approach to each topic than what you’d typically see in a classroom. One of their goals is to really stress the hands-on part of the program after what has been almost a full year of online learning for many New York City Students.

“One of the experiments that we have thought of is the DNA extraction lab, where students will be able to see their DNA,” Houck said. “Basically you’ll take your cheek cells, and perform a procedure that lets you extract the DNA from the rest of your saliva and then you can at the end see your little DNA strands, so you’ll be able to really visualize what you’ve learned that way.”

They’re also excited about planning interactive activities for the marine biology week.

“We’re thinking of bringing in bioluminescent algae,” Lovci said. “They sit in certain types of water, and they react each time you touch them by glowing. They’re what you’ll see in a lot of pictures on instagram of people swimming in flowing water. We’re going to talk a little bit about them, what makes them different, the science behind it, and we’ll talk about other bioluminescent animals.” 

One of the advantages of the program is that despite being lower commitment than some other intensive science programs, it’s just as fun. Students can pursue other activities in the afternoon after spending the morning with Zooming into Science. 

“We’re not asking you to join because you want to do a two week Yale intensive where you eat, sleep and breath science, but if you’re interested in science, come in for two hours a day: we’ll talk about stuff, do experiments, and have a good time,” Lovci said.

If you’re interested in registration for the program you can check out Zooming into Science’s website, and if you have any questions you can reach them at [email protected]. The cost for all materials needed for the program will be included in the tuition price.