A science of equality Message: A two-week camp at Catonsville Community College aims to show girls that science isn't for boys only.

August 15, 1998|By Jamie Smith | Jamie Smith,SUN STAFF

With bones, eyes and brains scattered around her, Kelly Brown laid down her scalpel yesterday and made the discovery of a lifetime.

"I wouldn't mind being a surgeon," said the 13-year-old Sum "R" Science camper, her full attention on the sheep eye she had dissected. "I never knew there were so many things connected inside."

It's the sort of moment organizers of the girls-only camp live for: a young woman realizing that she could have a future in science.

The camp, which ends Friday, is in its third year and is based at Catonsville Community College. It immerses 40 middle schoolers anatomy, physics, computer science and a range of other disciplines for two weeks.

The point, camp organizers say, is to overcome what they believe is society's subtle message that girls can't -- or shouldn't -- work in science fields when they grow up.

"I think in many people's minds, we still have a stereotypic view of who's a scientist," said camp founder Judy Snyder, director of institutional equity and organizational development for the Community Colleges of Baltimore County. "You can't change the world in two weeks, but hopefully we can show girls there's another way."

All the hands-on labs are taught by female faculty from Catonsville Community College, who share their experiences as women in science and explain how to get a job in fields such as archaeology. Campers also learn about accomplished female scientists in history.

On the first day of camp, the girls were a "little bit hesitant" to say they want a career in science, said camp director Diane Jones, a biology professor at Catonsville. But by the middle of the week, almost everyone had jumped on the science bandwagon.

There's Emily Kulokas, 12, who wants to be a meteorologist. "I always watch the sky," she said. And Jill Pfau, 11, a marine biologist hopeful. And Monique Lawrence, 15, who came in thinking she wanted to be a lawyer but is considering medicine, too.

Campers -- the majority of whom live in the county -- finished their first week yesterday with a trip to the Baltimore Zoo to see polar bears, zebras, parrots -- and the wonders of biology.

Why, the group asked, are the flamingos pink? "Mostly, it's genetic -- it's your genes that determine even your metabolism," said Jones, adding: "It's just amazing to me. The zoo is what got me into genetics." Earlier this week, campers visited the Columbus Center in Baltimore to study marine life and took a ride to the Naturalist Center in Leesburg, Va., where they learned how to tell the age and gender of an animal by its teeth.

But yesterday, dissection seemed to be on everyone's minds.

"It stinks!" said a distinctly unimpressed Christina Lipscomb, 12, taking in the first whiff of her formaldehyde-soaked sheep brain. "How are you supposed to cut it? Oh, this is so creepy."

When Jones showed her campers how to remove the different parts in an eye, the reaction was loud and clear: Ewwww.

But half an hour later, many had a new opinion. "I'm trying to see what's in there," said Jamilia Holmes, 12, probing the lens and retina of a sheep's eye.

Kelly, finished with her sheep brain -- "looks like chicken," she proclaimed -- was ready for the next step. "I want to dissect a human brain," she told Jones.

It happens every time, Jones says -- "by the end, they all want to touch."

"It makes me feel like we're maybe changing some minds," she said.

For information about the camp, which costs $220 a child, call 410-455-6948.

Pub Date: 8/15/98

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