Students Get Scientific Experience With Science First in Lake County
The four-week program uses Lake County's forest preserves as living laboratories.
For seven years students from across Lake County have given up four weeks of their summer to focus on studying science, doing field work and researching educational and career opportunities in the field.
The program, Science First in Lake County, is an intensive environmental science program offered by the Lake County Forest Preserves.
Sarah VanNevel, a student at Gavin South Junior High School in Ingleside said she has always loved science. She is in her third summer with the program.
“The best thing about the program is meeting other kids who love science and getting to have access to all of this cool stuff to learn about,” said VanNevel. “At school, we can’t do all of this because we don’t have all of this equipment and places to go.”
Sarah is one of 32 students from around Lake County in the program, which is free to participants. It is based at the Greenbelt Cultural Center in North Chicago and uses Lake County’s forest preserves as living laboratories.
This year Science First in Lake County graduated its 200th participant.
Across the U.S., women and minorities are historically under-represented in the sciences in both business and academia. Research on eliminating this gap shows middle school is a key turning point for many students and a time where their natural interest in science can decline due to social pressures.
Continued exposure to hands-on science and science careers is important, which is why the Science First in Lake County program aims to inspire middle school students like Sarah to return each year. The program is open to rising students entering seventh to ninth grades from schools in minority or underserved communities throughout Lake County.
While engaging girls and minorities is a goal, the primary prerequisite is a strong interest in science. Prospective participants go through an application and interview process and must be sponsored by a teacher.
Students in this, the program’s seventh year, are from the following schools: Beach Park Middle School, Beach Park; Daniel Webster Middle School, Waukegan; Gavin South Junior High School, Ingleside; John T. Magee Middle School, Round Lake; Miguel Juarez Middle School, Waukegan; Neal Math and Science Academy, North Chicago; Robert Abbott Middle School, Waukegan; Round Lake Middle School, Round Lake; Stanton Middle School, Fox Lake; Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Waukegan
The Preservation Foundation of the Lake County Forest Preserves is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2007 to provide meaningful ways for the community to partner in the mission of the Lake County Forest Preserves and preserve and protect Lake County’s natural and cultural treasures.
-Submitted by Science First of Lake County