STEM + Fun = ExploreHope

Throughout the weeks of June and July, the halls of Schaap Science Center bubbled with activity as hundreds of children excitedly chattered about newfound lessons as they clutched goodie bags full of goofy but cool science projects. This summer marked the 20th year of Hope College’s annual ExploreHope camps, hands-on workshops meant to stimulate love and learning  for youngsters in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and while ExploreHope promises kids a great time, it also provides an outstanding experience for Hope students who use their knowledge and leadership as ExploreHope staffers. With this unique opportunity, Hope students get to flex their creative and scientific muscles and share their enthusiasm for all-things STEM.

With this unique opportunity, Hope students get to flex their creative and scientific muscles and share their enthusiasm for all-things STEM.

In July, I talked to Hope junior Elizabeth Woodford who served on the ExploreHope staff this summer. Elizabeth is pursuing a bachelor of science degree in chemistry with a biochemistry emphasis, with minors in English and neuroscience as well so she’s quite qualified to teach a variety of different subjects. Plus, she loves getting kids, especially high schoolers, passionate about the sciences.

“I hope the kids have as much fun in the labs as I do,” said Elizabeth. “Sometimes I think I may be more excited to get to do some of these experiments and demos than my kids actually are.”

“Also, getting to write experimental design with my coworker Mimi Stalls was a lot of fun, too,” Elizabeth added. 

Any given day at ExploreHope is bustling with hands-on learning. The 50+ camps typically run in three-hour time blocks in either the morning or afternoon, with a few all-day camps thrown into the mix. The teachers, or counselors, lead the kids through entertaining and engaging activities. Those activities are designed to explain a particular field of science as well as to get kids — elementary to high school — excited about that field. New camps are created each year, too  —  Tinker(bell) Engineering and Experimental Design being the newest addition in 2017 — meaning there is something STEM for every camper.

While younger kids focused on science basics, high school camps are more oriented toward preparing the participants for college-level science classes, specifically labs. They conduct actual experiments and, in the end, walk away with experience and knowledge under their belts, making them better prepared for their freshman science classes when they reach college.

The children watch their Hope teacher blow on a wok containing the nitrogen, then “ooh” and “ahh” as they see the teacher’s breath create a cloud of ice crystals.

So, what’s the crowd favorite at the camps? According to Elizabeth, it’s the liquid nitrogen and dry ice demo. In this experiment, the teacher shows the campers how sublimation works through dry ice, along with the freezing ability of liquid nitrogen. The children watch the teacher blow on a wok containing the nitrogen, then “ooh” and “ahh” as they see the teacher’s breath create a cloud of ice crystals. The children are also stunned when their Hope teacher freezes a banana using liquid nitrogen and then hammers a nail into a piece a wood with the frozen fruit. (That would stun me too!)

Other popular activities at ExploreHope include field trips to the veterinarian, creating slimes and polymers, building lego robots, and performing flame tests on powders. When the week draws to a close, campers leave with a packet that reviews everything they did that week — including directions to redo some of the experiments at home (except the one with flames involved!).

Overall, ExploreHope is a formative opportunity for any kid — elementary to college —  to play with slime, “blow” things up,  or even design their own labs. In general, learning and loving science is what ExploreHope is all about.

Read more about ExploreHope camps on the Hope website and in The Holland Sentinel story.

Need Me This Summer? I’ll Be in the Lab

Meet Anna Lunderberg. Don’t let the relaxed pose in the hammock fool you. This summer, Anna is hard at work on campus, doing things like studying the brain tissue of rats and running Western blots. (Yeah, I had to Google that, too.)

Anna, a soon-to-be sophomore at Hope, is collaborating with biology and chemistry professor Dr. Leah Chase on neuroscience research through the summer. For Anna, who is still uncertain about her major, this is a great opportunity to explore possibilities.

Anna came to Hope last year thinking she would be a physics major. During the summer of 2016, before her freshman year had even started(!), she participated in lab-based research at Hope with physics professor Dr. Jennifer Hampton. During the fall semester, Anna continued her physics research and participated in Hope’s Phage Discovery program. Students in this program do microbiological and molecular research to isolate, identify and investigate phages (viruses that infect bacteria.) They then share their discoveries in public databases used by researchers worldwide.

So, by the end of her first year, the Phage program had made Anna a bona fide researcher. What’s more, the program drew her into the biochemistry lab, where she discovered interests beyond physics.

Today in the lab, Anna is conducting research that will benefit mental health treatment. She studies rats that have been exposed to a derivative of homocysteine, a chemical found in higher concentration in the blood of individuals with neuropsychiatric disorders. She then determines if these rats respond better to lithium, a common treatment for bipolar disorder, or ketamine, a common treatment for depression. Using Western blots, Anna also studies how the proteins in the rats’ brains changed. The goal is to better understand the neurochemical changes associated with neuropsychiatric disorders.

“Even though things don’t always work the first time, it’s such an amazing feeling when things go right or everything falls together,” says Anna. “Procedures don’t always go well, but this is a universal part of science, and there is such a supportive environment here since everyone is going through the same thing.”

On any given day, Anna’s work is varied and well-supported, thanks to the active summer research community at Hope. She may be running tests in the lab, examining published research in her area, presenting her own findings to faculty and students or participating in weekly seminars. And, with programs like Chemistry Club’s Tuesday night beach picnics, she’s having fun with others her share her interests.

At Hope, you’ll hear a lot about collaborative student-faculty research. You’ll also hear about opportunities to participate in graduate-school-style research. Anna Lunderberg is making the most of both of these, and in the process making Hope a better and more interesting place.

What to Expect for First Year Advising

Freshman advising is an incredibly laid back experience. The process depends on whether you declare a major your first year.

Not sure on your major yet?

If you don’t declare a major your first year, your advisor won’t change. Your First Year Seminar professor will be your advisor until you declare your major. There’s no need to worry if you don’t know what you’re going to major in, most programs can still be completed in four years if you declare your sophomore (and in some cases, junior) year. Before classes even begin (during Orientation week), you are required to meet with your advisor to go over the classes you’re enrolled in. Then, at the end of your first semester (and all semesters to follow), you are required to again meet with your professor and go through the classes you’re planning on taking for the following semester.

Declare a major

You can request a professor from the department for your major directly on the major declaration sheet, or you may be assigned an advising professor. You should meet with your new advisor, especially if you’ve never met them before, just so the two of you can get to know each other outside of the constraints of a classroom. From there, your advisor can give you specific, thoughtful advice regarding your major, and the classes they believe would be best for you.

Your advisor is the person who can help you with just about anything and everything. They’re there for you and they want to help you, and watch you succeed. They can help you figure out what classes would be best for you and help you find internships and summer jobs. They can be excellent references on resumes, and a great source of guidance.

Your responsibilities are to take initiative in scheduling appointments and having a valid reason to meet with your advisor. Whatever you schedule an appointment for, you should be prepared for the meeting. For example, when you have your semestral meeting with your advisor regarding classes to take, you should have the classes you’re planning on taking already in mind to share with them.

Exploring majors

Hope’s liberal arts emphasis allows you to explore multiple possible majors, while still working towards graduation. This means that you’re free to take courses ranging from the arts to math, and still receive helpful credits along the way. Hope also offers a career development center where you can take tests that show you which field you would be best in. Your advisor is another great source of advice when exploring majors and planning for your future.