Breakthrough: Science Camp is World Class

From the Archives: June 30, 2004 Editorial, The Charleston Gazette

For more than 40 years we have welcomed bright and curious young people from around the country and then wished them well as they set off for Bartow, home of the National Youth Science Camp.

Two students from each state spend a week under clear Pocahontas County skies. They have a chance to learn, eat, play and converse with some of the best scientists in many different fields. The professors have a chance to rekindle their own enthusiasm. The camp galvanizes the intellectual appetites of young people who are already interested in medicine, physics, chemistry or other fields, says Darrin Magee, a 1990 alum and executive director of the National Youth Science Camp Foundation.

This year, students from Afghanistan and Germany are joining the American participants.

Now, science camp organizers want to create a world version, where students from many different countries come for the same kind of experience. But when they went to ask for money, foundations asked a good question: “How do you know it works?”

Magee was stunned at first. He knew from first-hand experience. But then he turned to the National Academies of Science, who said they had no standard by which to judge the camp.

So a committee of scientists is evaluating the camp this year to identify its strengths and weaknesses.

“It may be that we’re the benchmark,” Magee said.

That is certainly the indication so far. A group from Seoul visited to learn what they could for setting up their own science camp.

(The camp also spun off a short-lived West Virginia version in 1994 and 1995. A $75,000 seed grant sits waiting to restart the Mountain State version, which costs just $150,000 a year.)

The National Youth Science Camp was founded in 1963 as part of the state’s Centennial Celebration to foster interest in science and mathematics. Today, Magee said, the camp has more than 4,000 alumni in positions of leadership in sciences around the world.

We’ve known for some time the camp is world class. We look forward to hearing the evaluators’ report.

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Reprinted with permission of The Charleston Gazette.

 

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