G-STEM Program introduces teens to the world of environmental science

Photos by Diane VanDyke Pottstown Middle School students waded through various parts of the Schuylkill River to take water and animal specimens for examination.
Shakeem Lynch holds up a crayfish he found in the Schuylkill River.

For participating Pottstown Middle School students, Montgomery County Community College’s G-STEM— Green Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—program was the first opportunity they ever had to explore the Schuylkill River, hold crayfish or see schools of minnows swim by their legs.

By testing the water quality at various locations along the river, as well as in the Manatawny Creek tributary, students learned about what may impact the life cycle and inhabitants of this river aquarium.

“It is interesting and makes you think,” says Tyler Carter, one of the participants. “It’s a higher level of learning. We get to use what we learn in the classroom right here.”

“We learned scientific terms and concepts,” added Payton Reid, explaining that the program covers more material than what he has learned in school. “It’s good practice for college.”

Carter and Reid were two of 13 Pottstown Middle School students who participated in the one-week, academically intensive summer camp held June 23-27 at the College’s West Campus in Pottstown. G-STEM’s objective is to improve scientific literacy, environmental stewardship and appreciation of humanity’s responsibility in sustaining the environment.

“The philosophical goal is to provide an environment where students are exposed to and use scientific methodology and in doing so experience a success in a high-intensity science program with the expectation that will translate into a desire to pursue a college career in the sciences.

G-STEM provides a unique opportunity for these students to experience the career of a scientist,” MCCC Biology Associate Professor Dr. Davi Gonzales said.

In addition to the learning the basic concepts of scientific methodology, students learned about chemical concepts and data analysis. Each hands-on activity focused on environmental issues relevant to their community. At the conclusion of the program, the students displayed and shared their results using graphs, tables and Power Point programs with family, faculty and visitors.

For the past four years under the direction of Dr. Gonzales, MCCC has offered G-STEM to Pottstown area youth at no cost to the students, thanks to the generous funding of TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank.

Participating Pottstown Middle School students included Kha’la Frazier, Tyler Carter, Lamar Green, Dazah Regusters, Rebecca Harper, Terrell Taylor-Williams, Shakayla Sergent, Shakeem Lynch, Floyd Dashieel, Payton Reid, Alexandria Olvera, Shanyia Johnson and Keirsten Hickey.

Students work directly with College faculty, including Dr. Gonzales, program director and recruiter, teacher assistant trainer and faculty; Geology Professor Robert Kuhlman; Microbiology Assistant Professor Dr. James Bretz; Chemistry Assistant Professor Dr. Janet Graden; Biology Lecturer Dr. Matt Bobiak; Biology Lecturer Dr. Adam Meacham; and Mathematics Instructor Stephanie Isaac. Teaching assistants included Kaitlyn DeJohn, Patrick Robenoet and Amy Shaw.