The USGS Visitors Center at the National Center in Reston, Virginia
By Beth Stettner
Making science fun is the first requirement when communicating science to youngsters. Science Camp was created after the successful 1995 USGS Open House, when we partnered with the Reston Association. Initiated by USGS scientist Susan Russell-Robinson and Nancy Herwig of the Reston Walker Nature Center, the first session of Science Camp began in the summer of 1996. The USGS National Center is located on 105 acres of land, and we welcome the opportunity to share our beautiful grounds with our community. The camp partnership between the USGS and Reston Association offers children from 8 to 12 an opportunity to meet scientists, participate in science experiments, learn and practice new computer skills, create a newspaper, take field trips, and participate in swimming, boating, crafts, and sports.
There are four 2-week sessions with a total of 60 children per session. The staff includes a camp director, a science specialist, five senior counselors, five junior counselors, and two van drivers. The manager of the USGS Visitors Center oversees all of the Science Camp activities. All counselors, the camp director, science specialists, and van drivers are issued a temporary USGS ID and parking permits. Our facilities management, security office, safety office, and the health unit are all key players in making this camp program a success.
Over the past few years, the Science Camp has proved to be one of the Reston Association's most popular camps. Many children return year after year, session after session. Some have even become counselors-in-training and then full-fledged counselors. About 10 percent of the enrolled participants are children of parents who work at the USGS.
Science Camp demonstrates the many exciting scientific activities in which the USGS is involved. Meeting real scientists and specialists working at the USGS is a vital part of our camp program. Studies have shown that youngsters decide whether they have an interest in the arts, humanities, or science by the time they leave elementary school. The USGS is an ideal location to expose youngsters to the excitement and mystery of working in science.
It is our hope that through this partnership between USGS and the Reston Association, we have provided opportunities for children to think about a career in science. Providing science to children in a positive and intriguing environment not only educates and broadens their minds for a better understanding of the natural world but also helps to develop our Nation's next generation of scientists.