Kids learn fake snot recipe and more at science camp

Have you ever thought to yourself, "What do I need to make fake snot?"

As it turns out, little more than corn syrup, gelatin, hot water and, of course, food colouring.

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That was one of the things science camp participants and their parents learned at a July 18 open house during the Actua science, technology and engineering camp put on by WISE Kid-Netic Energy July 16-20 at R.D. Parker Collegiate, the second such camp in as many weeks.

The goal behind the camps is to get gets interested in science and engineering while they're still in elementary school, says Nusraat Masood, WISE Kid-Netic Energy's director, who was in Thompson for the open house.

"We're from the University of Manitoba and we're trying to encourage more and more young people into the field of science and engineering," Masood says. "We've understood that in order to do that we need to develop their interest around this age because if they're interested now they'll choose the science electives later in order to hopefully then come to our university to pursue fields of science and engineering."

A national science, engineering and technology outreach organization, Actua has been providing programming in Northern Manitoba for several years through member organizations like WISE Kid-Netic Energy, says Kaitlynn Carroll, Actua's communications and projects for-ordinator.

"Each year, we return with new and dynamic hands-on experiences for youth, so that they can build self-confidence and explore the many career options that are open to them"

Campers take part in activities covering a wide range of science and engineering disciplines over the course of a week, says irene Davies, one of the camp's instructors.

"We have a different theme every day," said Davies. "Monday was paleontology day. They dug for dinosaurs, made their own fossils."

A popular activity was food chain tag.

"Everyone has a place in the food chain and then they have to run around and find food or water and tag each other and take their lives," said Davies. "There's like humans, fire and disease. That's their favourite, actually."

"Yeah, they love it," said Tessa Harvey, another camp instructor.

Other activities include using science to build simple machines.

"They made a scissor lift using hydraulics which was really cool," says Harvey.

That involved using syringes and a tube, explains 9-year-old camp participant Rianna Van Tonder.

"We had a syringe, we put water in it, in the syringe, put in on a tube to another syringe," said Van Tonder. "That pushes it up when we squirt the water. The back of the other syringe pushes up the platform and we can make it go up and down by pulling in and out the syringe."

The instructors at the camp are mainly science or engineering students from the University of Manitoba, says Davies, who will start her third year of a biosystems engineering degree in the fall, though there are a couple of instructors who plan to work in education. Harvey recently finished a science degree in chemistry and microbiology.

Unlike most communities, Thompson benefits by having the camp for two weeks instead of just one, says Masood, thanks to a local sponsorship by Vale.

"We're actually overbooked in Thompson," Masood says. "We've gotten about 25 each week. This is the sixth year we've come to Thompson since 2001 and we've seen almost 300 students in Thompson now. Thompson's been very, very good to us."

In addition to summer camps, WISE Kid-Netic Energy also provides workshops to complement the Manitoba science curriculum throughout the school year.

"Let's say a class is studying rocks and minerals," says Masood. "They might call us over to bring all of the supplies they need to conduct that class. So we would have rocks and minerals and have all the different equipment needed to do hardness tests, lustre tests, et cetera. It's really meant to enrich the science curriculum already being delivered in the province of Manitoba."

None of that matters to Van Tonder, who just thinks the science programming is fun.

"I love it," she says. "It's like the best camp ever. I'm really interested in science and stuff like that."

It's popular with her parents, as well.

"I think my mom likes it because it's not a three-hour drive there and back," she says.

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