Since its start in 1963 West Virginia’s National Youth Science Camp has been encouraging recent high school graduates to pursue further education in the science field. Two students from each state are chosen to attend the month long camp that is centered at Camp Pocahontas in Bartow, West Virginia. This year the campers kicked off their journey by visiting the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy. Over 100 students arrived on campus the morning of June 16th and were welcomed by Dr. Paul Hill, the chancellor of West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. Dr. Hill spoke about the history of the National Youth Science Camp as well as his involvement as the CEO of the U.S Chemical Safety Board. The camp encourages students to take STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) classes and become more involved in the science field in their future studies. After the morning lecture the campers toured UCSOP and engaged in interactive sessions in the sterile IV and compounding laboratories.
Following the opening of the camp at UC the students traveled to Camp Pocahontas to begin their month long adventure. Their schedules for a typical day were full, beginning at 7:00am each day and ending around 11:00pm. The students experienced many guest lectures on varying topics from developments in cancer treatments to studies in foreign language in the medical fields. In addition to lectures, students had the opportunity to engage further into the sciences with hands on activities proctored by guest scientists of varying fields. Dr. Rebecca Linger, a professor at UCSOP, and P2 student Rachel Peaytt, traveled to the camp Sunday June 26th to conduct a week-long directed study block for the students. Their program was entitled Assaying Antioxidant Content of Medicinal Plants. Beginning the multi-day process Dr. Linger led the campers on a medicinal plant walk in search of plant samples. The samples were spectrophotmetrically tested for flavonoid content, giving the students an opportunity to see chemical interactions through color changes. The students were given the opportunity to learn about medicinal plants, as well as gain experience in plant material extraction and assay.
While the students developed their interests in science they also developed outdoor leadership through the camp. The campers participated in various outdoor activities including camping, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. With several overnight camping adventures, the students got to explore much of the beautiful West Virginia scenery including Canaan Valley and the Cranberry Glades. The students also got to spend time exploring the science behind telescopes and space exploration at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia.
Through the many hands-on activities, guest lectures, and outdoor activities the students developed a sense of what’s going on in the science community. This camp allows students to grow or develop their interest in science, while encouraging them to pursue their careers and continue their education. Dr. Linger and Rachel thoroughly enjoyed their experience with their involvement in the camp, and hope to continue building a relationship between UCSOP and the National Youth Science Camp.