Summer Science Lab Camp

June 14, 2016

What happens when you have a student with a passion for volunteering combined with a love of science?  The Summer Science Lab Camp is born!  The driving force behind this camp is local high school student Julia Visconte.  For this segment of our Student Guest Blog Series,  we asked Julia to tell us about the inspiration for this program:summer fun

I started a summer science lab camp this year (being held from August 8th thru August 12th) for students from any district entering third to fifth grade. The camp encompasses five days of learning and participating in labs in relation to several different branches of science: earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy. In addition, four of the five days includes a fun engineering challenge where students will work together to solve the challenge put in front of them.

The idea to create this program came to me in a conversation I had with my mom. I volunteer through notable clubs such as KEY Club and National Honor Society, participating in events like bell ringing for the salvation army and helping out at the community rec. center. One day, after volunteering I got home and told my mom I loved helping out but wished I could add more value rather than collecting money or passing out treats. After hearing my comment she asked me: “Well, what exactly would you be interested in helping in?” I pondered her question for a few days then told her about my idea of a science camp. My mom gave me full support for this idea! My dad was a little more hesitant. He was worried I was getting into something that would be too much to handle on top of the clubs I was already in, my advanced courses at school, and running long-distance on the outdoor track team. I took his criticism into consideration and replied that I was too passionate to give this idea up. He was on-board.summer science

Along with the support of my parents, I received an enormous amount of help and support from my science teachers and technology teachers at school. My physics teacher in particular was enthusiastic with my camp idea and helped me in creating it. He coordinated several conferences including a meeting with the entire high school science department, one with the principal at an elementary school, another with the principal at my own school, and one with the enriched club leader for younger students. These opportunities changed my stature in front of groups of people, I gained so much confidence from this experience. I even got a chance to pursue funding from the student council of my school, thanks to two of my friends who spoke to the advisor about my camp. I can’t even count the number of emails my teachers and I sent to get this program running. This camp helped get me a ton of exposure in the district. This experience has been really good for me and I’m really glad that I got involved with it!

Camp Details:

  • August 8-12, 2016, 9-11 AM
  • Open to students from all districts entering grades 3-5 in September
  • Camp held at Brockport High School
  • Cost is $80
  • Click here to see the flyer for more details and registration information

Julia Visconte is a rising senior at Brockport High School.  She is an active member of the National Honor Society,  Key Club and the Varsity Track Team.  She has participated in Explorers in Engineering with the Rochester Engineering Society,  and is currently involved in Project Lead the Way. She is also a recipient of the 2016 Rensselaer Medal, the 2015 Chemistry and Algebra 2/Trig Award, and the 2015 Pre-Calculus Award given at Brockport High School’s scholarship and awards night.

STUDENTS:  Are you a local student interested in writing about your experiences in local STEM activities?  We invite you to join us for our student guest blog series! Contact our Web Administrator at


ESSYI: An Exemplary STEM program

December 19, 2014

Welcome back to our STEM Series:  Recognizing STEM Exemplars.  In this series we are highlighting summer programs that offer engaging, exciting and empowering STEM programming for students in our area.   Read more about the STEM Exemplar program here.   This installment focuses on the Environmental Studies Summer Youth Insitute (ESSYI) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.


The Environmental Studies Summer Youth Institute (ESSYI) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) is a two-week, college-level, interdisciplinary, academic enrichment program for talented high-school students from around the world. ESSYI attracts students from a variety of settings across the U.S. and in recent years has had students from Spain, South Africa, Columbia, Greece, France, China, Senegal and Korea. The program introduces students to pressing environmental issues from a wide variety of disciplines. Toward this end, the ESSYI utilizes tools, techniques and technologies found throughout Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines and helps students understand that successful solutions to environmental issues will not come from a single field. The central goal of the program is to empower students with the confidence to change the world and to help them visualize possible career paths.  Students leave the institute with a better understanding of themselves, the environment, their academic opportunities in college, and potential career aspirations. Those who perform well in the program also receive college credit.

Outdoor learning is a key component of the EYYSI program

Outdoor learning is a key component of the EYYSI program

Throughout the ESSYI, STEM disciplines perspectives are integrated as the foundation for exploring environmental problems. Students conduct scientific research on the HWS Scandling (a 65-foot research vessel on Seneca Lake), in streams, quaking bogs, in the Adirondack Mountains, and in the Colleges’ science laboratories.  Participants explore the ways in which quantitative data can be used to monitor changes in the environment and discuss the how STEM disciplines serve as the backbone for understanding environmental issues. In order to investigate our surroundings from multiple perspectives – and develop tools for understanding our relationship to the environment – students engage with STEM partnership organizations (such as the SUNY Adirondack Ecological Center and the and Adirondack Interpretive Centers) and are exposed to a wide variety of regional expertise. This type of engagement also includes travel to a local landfill (a repository for many communities throughout New York State) and a trip to an organic farm that participates in community-supported agriculture. Students examine the complexity of environmental issues from ethical and philosophical perspectives through the investigation of sustainable options that consider geographic location, economic status, materialistic necessity, and political stakeholders. Students explore specific examples of how environmental issues have been dealt with in the past and learn to use multiple ‘STEM lenses’ to develop sustainable solutions for the future. The program culminates with a four-day trip to the Adirondack Park where students use their newly acquired skills to work collaboratively and address a specific environmental challenge.

In an effort to engage students from under-represented populations, ESSYI routinely partners with both private and non-profit organizations to provide high-achieving students from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds with tuition scholarships. These organizations include the HWS Finger Lakes Institute, New Jersey SEEDS, Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera, The Kent Cook Foundation, The Schuler Scholar Program and Christodora, Inc.

Students explore Seneca Lake aboard the HWS William F. Scandling

Students explore Seneca Lake aboard the HWS William F. Scandling

ESSYI is unique among summer pre-college programs in that its focuses on the interdisciplinary nature of environmental issues and the complexity of potential solutions through a varied STEM curriculum. By connecting students with over 15 college faculty from a myriad of disciplines (within the sciences, social sciences, humanities and the arts), ESSYI empowers students in ways that catalyze real personal growth. Students find specific topics, sessions and ideas that resonate with them individually. At the same time, they are exposed to other ideas and ways of thinking about environmental issues that broaden their perceptions collaboratively. Environmental problem solving is rocket science and ESSYI is an excellent first step towards a sustainable future.

For many ESSYI students, scholarships have played a significant part in their ability to attend the program. Click here for more information on ESSYI scholarship opportunities.

For more information, visit the program’s website or fill out a request for information.

Brad Muise is the Associate Director at ESSYI and is responsible for the logistics of the program.  He has a varied-background in several environmental health disciplines for both academia and industry. 

Summertime STEM: Science

July 8, 2014

Child’s play… and so much more

Albert Einstein once said “Play is the highest form of research.”  Summer vacation is a fantastic opportunity for encouraging all sorts of exploration and research through play.  Children love experimenting, and these experiments teach them about the scientific method and different scientific principles, all while having a great time.

Bubbles are a favorite summertime activity for kids of all ages.  “Bubbles not only involve children in learning, but they are fun, easy to use, and ever-changing. In addition, many science processes such as, investigation, discovery, experimentation, observation, definition, comparison, and classification can be learned simply by playing with bubbles.” (Angie Dorrell, M.A.)*

A bucketful of science just waiting to be explored!

Summertime and water play go hand in hand.  Get them out, get them wet, and see what happens.   Science Concepts Young Children Learn Through Water Play is a detailed primer in why this is a great avenue for science discovery and gives many suggestions for getting started!

Safe provides important safety resources for parents

Safe provides important safety resources for parents

Safety First:  Before starting water play, it’s a great time to review water safety tips.

Looking for activities that are already planned and will get you out of the house?  Check out the new Summer Science Festivals being offered by the Rochester Museum and Science Center.  Running Fridays and Saturdays through the end of August, the Festivals are kicked off this weekend with the topic of Hometown Heros.  In addition to the weekend Festivals, there are Live Science Performances during the week as well.  Auditorium shows are daily at 1 and 3 pm, Science Encounters are daily at 11:30am, 12:30pm and 1:30pm, and the Electricity Theater is daily at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm.

Rainbow Slime from

Rainbow Slime from

If you are looking for science activities and experiments to replicate at home, check out for an amazing list of activities.  They are sorted by topic, and even have a fun STEM Camp 2014  idea list to try at home.  Learning 4 Kids also has a very user-friendly list of activities designed to encourage learning science through play. We also found this fabulous, colorful Rainbow Slime recipe that the kids can’t wait to try.

“A leading researcher in the field of cognitive development says when children pretend, they’re not just being silly – they’re doing science.”  Read more here from Alison Gopnik at Smithsonian Magazine.  So let them be silly, and discover science in the process!

What is your family doing this summer that involves science?  We’d love to hear from you!  If you have a budding scientist at home that wants to share what they’ve been doing, have them contact us for inclusion in other Summertime STEM posts.



photo credit:  Soap Bubbles, Water Balloons.  *Excerpt from: :  Bubble, Bubble, Pop!  Exploring the Magic of Bubbles by Angie Dorrell, M.A.


Summertime STEM: Technology and Summertime Limits

June 25, 2014

As summer vacation is beginning for families throughout our region, it’s a question of balance that comes up between parents everywhere:  How much technology is too much?  And how do we set limits during the unstructured months of summer?  According to the AAP, children today are spending an average of seven hours a day on screen time (this includes TV, computers, phones and other electronic devices.  This is despite the AAP’s recommendation that screen time should be limited to less than two hours a day.

infographic by U.S. Department of Education:

infographic by U.S. Department of Education:

While we are supposed to be limiting screen time, job prospects in technology fields continue to rise.

IT jobs will grow 22% through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A look through the Occupational Outlook Handbook shows that many occupations that are technology-based will be increasing as our children get ready to enter the workforce.

Parents need to ready their children for a technological workplace without letting technology completely take over. It can be quite the challenge for today’s parents!  Here are a few suggestions that inspire children to use technology while at the same time getting them outside and active.  A win-win approach for families this summer vacation!


There are hundreds of geocaches to search for in the Fingerlakes Region!

There are hundreds of geocaches to search for in the Fingerlakes Region!

Geocaching is an activity that is rapidly gaining popularity worldwide.  Outdoor-based, but with a technological twist, it’s a hit with kids and parents alike.  In a nutshell,” Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.” (source:  Geocaching 101)

Biking, Hiking and Walking

Whatever your method of summertime locomotion, there’s an app for that!  Check out Map My Ride (biking), Map My Walk, and Map My Hike to plan your next outdoor adventure.  Kids can use their technology to plan their next route, and these free apps all allow you to document your activity afterward.  You can even share your entries online on social media if you want to keep friends updated on your adventures.

For local fans of Rich & Sue Freeman (Footprint Press, authors of several guide books for our region), did you know you can find many of their trails online?  Check out the links for Take a Hike!  Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region Guide Book.  Using technology to plan your outdoor adventures can entice kids to go exploring.

Searching for Information

Whether you are planning your next hike or planning a patriotic celebration for July 4th, information abounds online.  Instead of playing games, have your kids explore and research instead.  How many times a day do questions come up?  Questions about nature such as information on the local wildlife, or information on how to fix a flat bike tire or what is the best air pressure to put in your soccer ball for your next game of Word Cup – the stream of questions is limitless.   Let your kids search for answers and fill the rest of the family in on what they have discovered.


31 Day Challenge from Raising Playful

31 Day Challenge from Raising Playful

Taking pictures is a great way to capture memories and document special events.  It’s also a great way to get the kids outdoors in the summertime.  Armed with a digital camera, kids see their environment through a different lens, and often find that they slow down and really take a good look at their surroundings.

There are digital cameras in all price ranges, and chances are you already have one (or more) in your house already that they can practice with.  Giving kids a theme can lend a completely different twist to your regular picture taking!  There are some great ideas online for picture-a-day type challenges.

A couple photo-taking lessons can go a long way in getting archival-quality photos.  Check out these 13 Lessons to Teach Your Child About Digital Photography from the Digital Photography School.  Sharing Your Camera with a Kid also has great suggestions for introducing little ones to the wonder of photography.

Journal Apps, Online Diaraies, and Digital Scrapbooks

If you’re stuck inside on a rainy day, take a look at some of the fantastic new applications available online for documenting the adventures you’ve had this summer.  From Common Sense Media, a leader in providing parents with trustworthy and up-to-date information about online media and digital content, comes a list of 17 apps that are reviewed for you and can be sorted by age, quality, and learning potential.

Safety FirstInternet-Safety-Month

With all of the technology available to our children, information is only a few clicks away.  Unfortunately, danger is just as easy to find online.

June is Internet Safety Month! Take some time to review internet safety with your children this summer, and build lifelong habits regarding safe internet use.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a Netsmartz Workshop that is specifically designed to help parents in this area.  With information for parents, and special sections for teens, tweens and kids, there is a wealth of  information on how to stay safe online.  From blogging and gaming to identify theft and other security issues, they cover a wide range of topics that affect families in the digital age.  There are even videos and presentations that you can download or watch right online.

How is your family embracing technology this summer?  Share your ideas with us!

Summertime STEM: Summer Camps

June 9, 2014

Summer Vacation is right around the corner!

Summer vacation is right around the corner!  Our region is filled with opportunities to engage in STEM learning over the summer.  Our Summertime STEM Series of blogs is going to look at a wide range of activities, for kids of all ages and abilities.

In this first installment, we’re going to focus on Summer Camps. Summer Camps are a great way to get immersed in a specific theme or subject. They can range from a couple of days to several weeks, and from an hour or two a day to full day programs, with residential camps an option as well.  Chances are, whatever you are looking for, there is a camp for that!  Summer camp is a summer highlight for many families, so take a look now to see if there’s something that appeals to you.  If you haven’t already, check out our School Break Camps page for a listing of many different kinds of camps in our area.  We’ve tried lot list as many camps in our area that we could find, in a variety of age and price ranges.

Do you have information on a STEM camp that you don’t see listed?  Please share with us and we’d be happy to add it to our listing.

Summer camps are a great way to get activities in without having to do all the planning yourself.  Registrations are well underway, so sign up soon if you are interested.