Staff Stories: Neuroscience Camp

Hello! My name is Naomi Gunneson and I will be a sophomore at Hope in the fall. I am studying neuroscience on the pre-med track with a Spanish minor. I hope to one day be a pediatrician and help kids have a positive experience in the doctor’s office. Having always loved learning about the human body and wanting to help my community, the pre-med track kind of chose me. 

When I found out about the ExploreHope camps, I was beyond excited for the opportunity to get involved. These camps combine two of my favorite things: science and working with kids! Getting to watch campers experience so much joy while learning in a stress-free environment has been incredible. ExploreHope camps have not only given me the chance to teach science to kids, but also opened doors to form closer relationships with professors, improve my public speaking skills, and have a blast every day!

One of the camps that I led was the neuroscience camp. I worked alongside Dr. Welsch, a neuroscience professor at Hope College, and Riley, another neuroscience major, to make this camp happen. In this camp we explored everything related to the brain. The first day the students got to dissect a sheep brain and cow eye, and look at a real human brain!

This was a super engaging activity as the campers could identify brain regions as they learned about their function. That’s something that is really cool about these camps: students get to delight in hands-on learning without the pressure of being graded. Some other activities students got to do included dissecting crayfish to determine the action potential of cells in their tails, work in an engineering lab to assess the difference between our response time to visual and auditory stimuli, and even set up their own EEG to read alpha brain waves! While a lot of these concepts are quite advanced, this camp provides an excellent opportunity for older students to get an introduction to the neuroscience field. I could tell that this camp truly sparked joy in all the campers and I can’t wait to see even more happy campers in the weeks to come!

ExploreHope Staff Assembles for 25th Year of Science Camps

For the 25th year in a row, busyness has ensued as the ExploreHope staff has begun preparing for the arrival of this year’s summer science campers. The mood inside of Schaap Science Center has been one of eager anticipation for the camps to begin as we prepare to host yet another year of fun-filled exploration for area K-12 students. Our directors and student leaders have been busy creating manuals, enhancing curricula, and designing material that’s destined to be both fun and formative for our campers. 

In parallel with the 25th anniversary of Hope College’s summer science camp program, this year’s camper enrollment marks the largest ever with over 1,000 total students coming to Hope to gain a variety of unique experiences. The main focus of the Summer Science program is to offer valuable new learning opportunities to K-12 students. However, our camp staff which consists largely of Hope College students has come for the same reason. The experience of being a camp staff member serves as a great chance for professional development and hands-on involvement in the camp creation process. This experience prepares Hope students of many different backgrounds and majors for their careers beyond college. In addition, students are given the chance to work alongside their peers, make some new friends, and learn how to function within a unified team. 

Through interacting with younger campers, college students will be able to develop their interpersonal skills with K-12 students and learn quickly about all that it takes to command a classroom. Furthermore, staff members benefit from their close collaboration with camp directors on the creation of camps and their inner workings. Working at ExploreHope gives students a look at what it’s like to work within a dynamic leadership team and promotes a healthy and productive work environment among all members of the staff. At ExploreHope’s summer science camps, campers and staff members alike learn valuable new things from one another throughout the entirety of their experiences. 

Now that Hope Summer Science Camps have kicked off, keep a lookout for posts from our staff members! They’ll be updating us with dispatches from camp – full of funny stories, cool experiments, and lots of hands-on fun. Stay tuned!

STEM@Home: Stomach Science

Dr. Marie Maynard Daly, a pioneer in digestive and heart chemistry

Picture a chemist working in her lab: white coat, protective goggles, pipette. Rows of neatly labeled glass bottles are perched over a pristine lab bench. So far, so good. Choose a bottle, decant it into a beaker, and she’s on her way, all neat and tidy. But what if our chemist isn’t studying the stuff out there, ready to grab and mix, but the chemicals and enzymes inside our own bodies? Well then, throw neat and tidy out the window! That’s right, we’re talking GUTS, SPIT, and TONGUES! We’re talking…. Stomach Science!

Stomach Science Pioneer: Dr. Marie Maynard Daly

Actually, scientists have been fascinated with the science of the human body for a long time. In fact, a book called “The Microbe Hunters,” about the invention of the first vaccines, inspired a girl named Marie Maynard Daly to study chemistry at Queens College and Columbia University. Marie lived at home during college and took time out of studying to tutor other students, earning money to cover tuition costs.

Dr. Mary Caldwell invited Marie to study the digestive enzyme amylase, as her doctoral work. Amylase is a chemical produced by the body that breaks down starch – one of the most common carbohydrates in food – into simple sugar, making it easier to digest. And yes – it’s found in your spit. Marie earned her PhD in chemistry in 1960, the first Black woman in the U.S. to do so – and she did it in just three years!

Dr. Maynard Daly went on to continue her work in digestive enzymes and also studied hypertension in the heart – learning that high cholesterol levels, high sugar intake, and smoking are linked to the heart disease. She was a professor for many years, training future researchers and doctors, while continuing her research. Click here to learn more about Dr. Daly!

Stick Your Tongue Out

Want to run your own tests on the effect of amylase on starch? It’s easy to do! All you’ll need is a Ritz cracker and small piece of cheese. So, you put the cheese on the cracker and pop it in your mouth and…. wait a second, those aren’t the right instructions! That’s how you make a tasty snack. For instructions, check out this guide from the Curious Crew!

Love Hands-On Science? Support ExploreHope!

Celebrate ExploreHope Summer Camp’s 25th Anniversary and American Camp Association accreditation with a donation today!

Your sponsorship provides scholarships to ensure all students
in West Michigan have access to quality summer programs.

1) Contribute today – 100% of your donation goes to our scholarship fund.(Select ExploreHope under Fund Designation) 
2) Partner with us – Contact us for corporate sponsorships.

Yes – I’ll Give to ExploreHope
Yes – My company is interested in camp sponsorship

Celebrate Slime, Robots and Dinos: ExploreHope turns 25!

ExploreHope, Hope College’s academic outreach center, is celebrating our 25th anniversary of hands-on science for K-12 students and pre-service training for Hope college students. What began one scientist’s bright idea has turned into Holland’s premier kids science camp, and Hope College’s most fun-filled opportunity for college students to explore teaching and science communication.

Tod Guigino was a long-time chemistry department lab manager at the college before running our summer science programs.  In 1996, he and several students offered the first chemistry camps for elementary students. Although he passed away in 2013, we strive to make him proud by carrying on his legacy and providing exploration-based science camps for K-12 students.

Every year, ExploreHope has built on Tod’s foundation, expanding camps to disciplines like environmental science, robotics, and paleontology, and including middle and high school camps as well. To celebrate our 25th anniversary, ExploreHope is proud to announce our accreditation with the national American Camp Association!

“Accreditation demonstrates ExploreHope’s commitment to a quality, high-caliber program,” Susan Brown, Director of ExploreHope states. “We value both the impactful training and experiential learning of our Hope student staff along with a safe and engaging experience for our campers. It marks our commitment to our families and serves as a strong foundation for us to continue to innovate and encourage life-long learning in the community.”

Our awesome 2021 summer staff

In 2021, ExploreHope served nearly 1000 summer campers and 20 student staff members over eight weeks of hands-on summer fun in June and July on Hope’s beautiful campus. But that’s not the end of ExploreHope’s impact with the community! During the academic year, ExploreHope continues to reach K-12 students through both virtual and in-person outreach programs. Approximately 1100 K-12 students and 60 Hope student volunteers participated in programs like Nuclear Science Day, hands-on STEAM Outdoor Art Day , and Brain Week.

Let the robot races begin! LEGO EV3 campers test their creations.

Passionate about science education in the Holland and Hope community? Support the work ExploreHope is doing! Donations welcome here.

Know a kid who’d love to spend a fun-filled week (or two!) exploring science with us this summer? Gift certificates available now! Give the gift of Tykes LEGO, The Science of Harry Potter, Wonders of the Watershed, and so many more.

Anchor Camp 2021

All ages worked together to build the Ultimate Marble Coaster at One Big Weekend’s inaugural Anchor Camp!

Imagine you’re a kid, and your parents announce, “Next weekend, we’re going to our college reunion!” Cue moans, groans and general malaise. Think college reunions are fun only for adults? Not when ExploreHope and the Hope Alumni Office are involved!

Hope College’s One Big Weekend was chock-full of excitement for all ages! From a Donut Run 5k to pumpkin decorating in the Pine Grove (not to mention about a million edge-of-your-seat sporting events including the Homecoming football game against Adrian College!), kids had plenty to do to keep busy on Hope’s beautiful campus. But this year boasted a special addition to the kid-friendly line-up: Anchor Camp!

ExploreHope, Hope College’s premier K-12 academic outreach office, pulled some of our most popular activities from Hope Summer Science Camps to make this one-night-only mini-camp for kids. Outdoor nature scavenger hunt? Check! Marble roller coasters? Check! The BEST fluffy slime? Check!

While parents zipped off to their 1, 10, and 20 year reunions, our summer staff members returned to host this incredible event. Their enthusiasm, expertise and experience made Anchor Camp a night to remember. “I don’t want to leave!” one kid moaned as their parents picked them up.

One Big Weekend 2021 might be over, but don’t worry – all the fun will return next year, including Anchor Camp!

STEM@Hope: Environmental Stewardship Day

Girl Scouts displaying maximal symmetry – with all-natural materials!

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Okay, that’s an old riddle perplexing minds for ages, but here’s a better one: Which came first, math or nature? Nature, of course! Math was invented to help us describe all the amazing patterns, quantities, and complex features we find in nature. Elementary students got to explore ways math and nature work together at ExploreHope’s Environmental Stewardship Day.

1st-5th grade students from all over West Michigan came together on Saturday, October 10th to learn about Fibonacci and symmetry, plus many more patterns, all as it relates to nature. Did you know a fish’s scales demonstrate tessellation – a patterns created by repeating one shape over and over again? 1st-3rd graders got to create their own tessellated fish with shape stamps and a huge fish outline!

Not only does math let us describe our environment, it helps us understand it. Kids conducted their own water tests on local water samples, evaluating the water for fertilizer pollution, clarity, and available oxygen for animals. After collecting their data, kids used another form of math – graphing – to easily compare their results.

Since nature is all around us, math is all around us too! You can STEM@Home, just like we did at Hope. Grab a notebook and pencil and head to your favorite nature spot to get started. It could be your neighborhood park, a creek near your house, or even your own backyard!

Sketch a quick tally chart on your paper, and start quietly observing your surroundings. Every time you see a different kind of animal, make a tally on your chart! Maybe you’re counting birds, bugs, and squirrels. Maybe you’re at a swamp and observing fish, frogs, and insects. Wherever you are, take 15-20 minutes to collect your data – and enjoy the most peaceful math class ever!

Once you’ve collected your data, decide how you’ll display it. Will you make a bar graph? A pie chart? How about changing your tallies into numerals so it’s easy to see your results? All of those ways are using math to describe nature. You’re on the way to being a nature mathematician!

Summer of STEM: Dive Deeper into Dissection!

This summer we’re hearing from our amazing camp staff. Our Hope College students do the heavy lifting of planning, prepping, and teaching our hands-on camps all summer long! Each week, 2-3 student staff members will recap a camp they’ve led and share tips on how to keep the fun going at home!


Hello everyone! My name is Ashley Lauraine and this is my fifth year working at the Explore Hope Science Camps. I will be a freshman at Hope next year and will be majoring in Biology along the Pre-Veterinary track. I absolutely adore these camps and love watching the campers’ eyes light up when an experiment is a success or their craft turns out just perfect! Now that I will be a college student I am finally able to lead camps after 4 years of assisting and I am so excited to share with you one of my all time favorite camps to participate in!

This week I led Diving into Dissection! Dissection is one of my passions and I love being able to share this with my campers. I even took this same camp when I was their age! This camp covers anatomy of different animals such as the rat and fish and also delves deeper into individual organs like the eyes, heart, brain, and lungs. The primary focus of this camp was to allow the kids to explore the in depth anatomy of the specimens and learn more about the physiology and functions of the individual organs within an organism such as a cow or a human. 

One of my favorite parts of the week was the dissection of the cow eye. The entire class was interested as I explained how the lens in our eyes reflects everything we see so that our eyes perceive correctly. They also loved taking out the tapetum lucidum from the eyes. This is the reflective surface behind the retina that allows cows, and other animals, to see well in the dark and causes eye flare in photographs. The campers all admired the marble-like blues and greens making up that structure.

Another major highlight of the week was our observation of a cow lung! We used an air compressor to inflate the lung and the kids were able to feel the tissue as it expanded and released and were able to visually see what happens inside their own bodies every time they breathe.

Does inflating a cow lung sound amazing to you? Do the next best thing and make your own model lung!

Breathe in, breathe out!

You will need:

  • A stiff plastic bottle cut in half
  • A balloon
  • Plastic wrap (you can replace this item with a balloon cut in half, using the top half)
  • A rubber band
  1. First you will need to cut your plastic bottle in half, keeping the top and recycling the bottom. 
  2. Second your balloon will be placed inside the plastic bottle with the end sticking out the top, then that end will be stretched over the mouth of the bottle. This will be your lung. 
  3.      
  4. Wrap the plastic wrap around the open bottom with enough slack to be grabbed and pulled and secure it with the rubber band. This is going to represent the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest (thoracic) and abdominal cavities. This muscle pulls down to allow your lungs to inflate and pushes up to deflate. When you pull down the balloon will inflate and when you push it back up, it will deflate. 

Summer of STEM: Art 2D/3D

This summer we’re hearing from our amazing camp staff. Our Hope College students do the heavy lifting of planning, prepping, and teaching our hands-on camps all summer long! Each week, 2-3 student staff members will recap a camp they’ve led and share tips on how to keep the fun going at home!

Welcome back to the ExploreHope blog! My name is Haley Galloway and I’m so excited to share part of my summer at ExploreHope with you all. I am a recent graduate of Hope College and as an alumna, nothing makes me happier than to see all of the great learning opportunities that Hope provides for our campers!

This week I had the honor of teaching one of ExploreHope’s fine arts oriented camps, Art 2D/3D. This camp allows our campers to explore different mediums of art, both two dimensional and three dimensional, and hopefully discover new techniques and skills. This camp is one of my favorites that ExploreHope offers because it allows our campers to nourish their creativity and participate in types of art that they haven’t had exposure to before.

One of my favorite activities this week was doing shaving cream marbling with our campers. This was our last activity on our first day of camp and I think it totally summed up how the rest of the week was going to go: messy, colorful, and a whole lot of fun! It was amazing to see all of the campers’ creations because every one of the pieces came out so unique. If you picked your camper up on Monday and wondered why their hands were stained, this activity was why! 

The campers got to create a wide variety of art this week, but I think one of everyone’s favorite activities were our collages. I loved seeing how creative this activity inspired our campers to be, and the best part is that it is super simple to recreate at home! The only supplies needed are an old newspaper or magazine, a pair of scissors, some paper, and some glue. Challenge your kiddos to create something creative out of your old magazines and newspapers!

Summer of STEM: Wonders of the Watershed

This summer we’re hearing from our amazing camp staff. Our Hope College students do the heavy lifting of planning, prepping, and teaching our hands-on camps all summer long! Each week, 2-3 student staff members will recap a camp they’ve led and share tips on how to keep the fun going at home!

Hello everyone! My name is Katie Selenko and I am currently an ExploreHope Staff member! I am a junior at Hope College studying Elementary Education with a focus in English. I believe science camps are a great way to allow students to engage and learn more about the surrounding world. As a child who attended various science camps,  I remember being very excited and always ready to learn more! I am excited to be a part of that opportunity now for other kids.

This week I was given the opportunity to lead the Wonders of the Watershed camp. Our main focus of this camp was to see how land use affects our watershed by sampling water and soil from three different stream sites including the Macatawa River at Windmill Island, Zeeland Wetlands, and at Adams Landing. This week we dove into concepts about water quality including dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, nitrate, phosphate, turbidity, and conductivity. We also talked about soil concepts, such as nitrate and phosphate. We also discussed how stormwater and agricultural runoff might affect the watershed and ways to help prevent it. 

My favorite part of this camp was watching students be active participants in the field and engaging in the testing of water and soil quality. It was exciting to see campers get involved and to have them learn more about what we can do in order to help clean up our watershed. 

If you want to have a taste of the Wonders of the Watershed camp at home, going to this link will provide you a map of Michigan and what land use is like within each area. Even especially in the Holland/Zeeland area! This is what our camp focused on this week and how different types of land use affects our watershed along with sediment deposition. We discovered this week that areas surrounded by urban land tend to have poorer water and soil quality compared to streams that have a mixture of agricultural and urban land use. 

Summer of STEM: Cool Critters and Crawlies

This summer we’re hearing from our amazing camp staff. Our Hope College students do the heavy lifting of planning, prepping, and teaching our hands-on camps all summer long! Each week, 2-3 student staff members will recap a camp they’ve led and share tips on how to keep the fun going at home!

Welcome back to the ExploreHope blog! I am so excited to share about my first summer as a teacher for ExploreHope. My name is Annie Bruebach and I am going into my senior year as an Elementary Education major. I have loved seeing our campers become so passionate about science through hands-on activities and experiential learning.

This week I had the privilege of teaching one of my favorite camps, Cool Critters and Crawlies. All of our campers became bug experts as we learned about bumblebees, spiders, insects, butterflies, and lightning bugs. The students even had the opportunity to work with one of the Hope professors to create their own pollinator devices!

One of my favorite activities this week was ending camp each day with bug catching. Each student had their own “bug house” that they filled with soil and all the bugs they caught during the week. The campers loved digging in the dirt and finding rolly-pollies, ants, spiders, and even a couple earwigs. At the end of the week the students got to take their bug houses home so they can continue to bug hunt!

In the classroom, the campers participated in a variety of activities and each day they were able to take home a bug-related craft. If you asked any of the campers, I’m sure they would say that their favorite activity was making lightning bugs from plastic bottles!

Make your own lightning bug at home with an empty plastic water bottle, a pipe cleaner, some yellow and black construction paper, a couple glow sticks, and some tape.

  • First, tape the yellow construction paper around the water bottle.
  • For wings, cut out the black construction and tape two wings to the body of the lightning bug.
  • Then, twist a pipe cleaner around the cap to create the lightning bug’s antennae.
  • Finally, place the glow sticks into the bottle. Turn off the lights to get the full effect of your glowing bugs!

By the end of the week, all of our campers had become bug experts and it was a blast to see them become so passionate about all the cool critters and crawlies that live around us!