When chemistry major Bria Burton stumbled upon a brochure about Penn State’s Science-U program, she knew it was the perfect way to share her love of science with the community. Science-U Summer Camps are week-long programs that introduce children in grades two through twelve to STEM fields.
Early educational experiences, like Science-U, are crucial in the formation of young scientists. Science camps give students unique opportunities to experience science in action, participate in scientific exploration, and learn about how science impacts the world around them. Science-U aims are to educate and inspire students, encourage critical thinking, and prepare them to become responsible, skilled, and caring scientists.
This is a goal that Burton shares. After learning more about Science-U, she accepted a position volunteering with the camp this summer in the hopes of inspiring the next generation of scientists.
“I'm very passionate about chemistry, and science in general,” she explains, “I love to encourage people to find their own love science as well.”
Throughout the summer, Burton has been busy guiding campers—ranging from elementary to high school students—through their own personal scientific journeys. Her role is to help the students work through experiments and to facilitate discovery. “I love working with the kids and seeing them get excited about science,” she adds, “it’s the perfect position!”
However, for Burton the experience isn’t all about bringing science to the next generation. For her, it’s also an opportunity to learn something new. “I wanted to further my educational experience,” she explains, noting that working with Science-U has helped her develop leadership and communication skills. It’s also inspired her to continue her own scientific journey. “During the first week, my campers had to figure out how to make a toy car move only using paper and tape,” says Burton, “It was so amazing to see all of the kids working together and coming up with ideas on how to make the car move. They were all so innovative with their ideas. It was really cool and inspiring to watch how things clicked in their minds and how excited they were when they accomplished their goal.”
Burton is not alone in taking inspiration from service. Chemistry major Timothy Lou also recently volunteered with Science-U. Lou first began volunteering in high school, helping out at outreach events in his community. After arriving at Penn State, Lou heard about Science-U and decided to get involved. “I became involved in Science-U's events because I wanted to help with outreach events to inspire an interest in science for young students,” he explains. While volunteering, Lou attended Science-U events and demonstrated a creative science activities to students, including the iodine clock reaction. “It reminded me of my own experiences when I first became interested in STEM,” Lou says, noting that he enjoyed being able to pass his love of science to the next generation.
Although Burton and Lou enjoyed sparking inspiration in the students, they also came away from their Science-U experience with a new appreciation for science outreach. “Working with Science-U has been a great opportunity,” says Burton, “Volunteering is a great way to help others and a great way to learn new things!”