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Randolph College Aims to Create Spark at Local Science Summer Camp

LYNCHBURG — Whether they are conducting experiments on diapers, testing the earthquake readiness of structures, or learning about electricity, students at Jubilee Family Development Center’s summer camp will get a hands-on taste of the wonders of science June 29 through July 3, thanks to a team of Randolph College professors, students and alumnae.

“We want to give kids a chance to experience being scientists and the opportunity to become excited about the world of science,” said Peter Sheldon, Randolph physics professor and one of the leaders of the program.

For the fifth year, the college will lead a week-long science camp designed to spark children’s interests in the sciences. This year’s camp has an added benefit by providing several local teachers with experience using inquiry-based lesson plans. This type of teaching method is the focus of a recent major grant awarded to Randolph from the State Council on Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV), and several Randolph professors have spent years providing local school divisions with resources and training on this type of teaching method.

Sheldon and Peggy Schimmoeller, an education professor at Randolph joined together in 2000 to provide local teachers with additional resources to help them be more effective in the classroom while still meeting the state’s Standards of Learning (SOL) requirements. In additional to several workshops, programs, and training opportunities over the years, the pair created a website that serves as a free resource for any teacher. The site provides content information about the various sciences and also provides effective, tested hands-on based lessons plans based on the SOLs. Videos of the lesson plans in action are also offered on the website, located at

“Teachers work extremely hard and anything we can do to help children succeed in school is important,” Sheldon said. “We’re able to put lesson plans and teaching methods at their fingertips that have already been tested. Most importantly, we hope we’re able to help them generate a real interest in science in their students.”

The summer camp at Jubilee Family Development Center has also become a tradition at the college. Since 2004, the college has only missed one year offering the camp. About 60 children ranging from second to eighth grade are expected to participate in the camp this year. Sheldon and Schimmoeller will be joined by Tatiana Toteva, assistant professor of environmental studies and physics. Four local teachers, Cat Phillips, Bridges Spiva, Purvi Parikh, and Andrew Hutcheson, will also participate along with Randolph student Marja Copeland ’11 and alumna Kacey Meaker.

The students will spend the week exploring everything from electricity, slugs and snails, polymers (diaper experiments), earthquakes, and force and motion. The camp is one of many offered at the Jubilee Family Development Center during the summer.

“We enjoy this opportunity to give back to our community and to provide these students with a glimpse at how much fun science can be,” Sheldon said. “You never know what positive impact this kind of experience can have on a child. All of us enjoy being able to make a difference just by sharing what we love to do — teach.”


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