The camp offers river adventures, water education and leadership opportunities

High school student Blossom Xiong was one of 30 students to attend UW-La Crosse’s pre-college camp. /Mike Lieurance, UW-La Crosse

Nadalee Thao, a high school student from Milwaukee, had heard that the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse was a good science school, and she was interested in checking it out. She had the opportunity to do so as a participant in My River Adventures Camp (MRA), a pre-college summer camp at UW-La Crosse supported in part by the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin.

Photo: Attending the camp gave high school junior Nadalee Thao the opportunity to check out UW-La Crosse as a potential college./Mike Lieurance, UW-La Crosse

Attending the camp gave high school junior Nadalee Thao the opportunity to check out UW-La Crosse as a potential college./Mike Lieurance, UW-La Crosse

“The counselors were awesome and all the people there made it really fun,” Thao says. “I learned to be a leader. I also learned a lot about biology and environmental sciences.

The week-long camp is part of the university’s efforts to recruit students for careers in STEM, particularly in water-related sectors, such as biology, ecology and aquatic sciences, where skilled professionals are in high demand.

One of the main goals of the camp is to address the lack of diversity in the water sector and to expose students from underrepresented communities to careers in STEM. Funding from the Freshwater Collaborative provided free camp, food and accommodation for 30 students. These funds have greatly increased the accessibility of the camp, regardless of the student’s socio-economic status.

“The importance of this camp is to provide an on-campus experience for students who might not normally have had such an opportunity,” says Laura Lauderdale, pre-college coordinator at UW-La Crosse and camp director. “Participating in faculty sessions at college academic buildings makes the option of going to college tangible and attainable for these students.”

Faculty members Adam Driscoll, Tisha King-Heiden, and Brian Pompeii of the university’s River Studies Center led teaching sessions and tours of nearby regional rivers and marshes for fieldwork and research. ‘observation. Participants were also assigned an undergraduate mentor who worked one-on-one with them as they engaged in a variety of hands-on activities, including using GPS to navigate marshes, floodplains, and natural habitats; analyze and identify fish and plant species as part of MRN sampling activities; learn about water quality sampling; and observation of specimens under the microscope.

Photo of Matheo Huerta Perez, sixth grade student, who enjoyed discovering the different bodies of water./Mike Lieurance, UW-La Crosse

Matheo Huerta Perez, a sixth-grade student, enjoyed discovering the different bodies of water./Mike Lieurance, UW-La Crosse

“I learned a lot about bodies of water, fish and wildlife in marshes and rivers,” says sixth-grade student Matheo Huerta Perez.

The experience also provided leadership and hands-on learning opportunities for the camp’s nine mentors. UW-La Crosse Undergraduate Maddie Renaud specializes in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Education and Minor in At-Risk Youth and Child Care, and she is involved in the university’s pre-college programs since 2018. Working as a camp assistant and mentor will be beneficial when she graduates in December.

“I have learned many valuable skills and lessons throughout my experience with the MRA camp – both about the value of our local water sources and the confidence to be able to facilitate, engage and make meaningful connections. with young people in Wisconsin,” says Renaud. “I am extremely grateful to have been part of this collaboration and hope to see this program continue in the future, as the city, staff and community partners of UW La Crosse have illuminated the lives of these children in many ways.”

In addition to the science component, camp participants and their undergraduate mentors learned about careers in STEM and freshwater sciences. And the students were encouraged to try new things.

“I stepped out of my comfort zone and did things I wouldn’t normally do,” said Blossom Xiong, a ninth-grader from Altoona, Wisconsin. I also learned about the different swamp creatures and how the chemicals in the water can affect them. »

Seeing the students excel is one of the things Lauderdale enjoys most about running camp.

“The students we worked with were truly phenomenal,” she says. “They embodied our ‘challenge by choice’ mentality and stepped out of their comfort zone all week.”


Written by Heidi Jeter, Freshwater Collaboration of Wisconsin

Link to original story: https://freshwater.wisconsin.edu/uwlx-river-adventures-camp/

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