Girls in Science
Director of Education, Della Barbato led a Girls Summer Camp during the week of June 27. It was facilitated with NPAT partners from UHCL’s Environmental Institute of Houston. Ten high-school aged girls from Deer Park, Dickinson, Clear Creek and Houston attended the camp.
.The camp sought to address this lack of knowledge and awareness by students of the ecology, history and services provided by native coastal prairies and wetlands. The week included tours of both remnant and restored prairies, insect sweeps and identification, birding with binoculars, wildlife demonstrations, and presentations on coastal prairie history and ecosystem services. Field trips also included Sheldon Lake State Park and Armand Bayou Nature Center.
Many residents do not understand how their actions can negatively impact this endangered ecosystem. Using a 3-D Enviroscape model, campers saw how actions of the public affects water quality, and how a prairie can mitigate pollution. Through this activity, the girls discussed how their actions at home can affect water quality.
Butterfly kits were used to show the life stages of butterflies. Fifteen adult Painted Lady Butterflies were released onto Deer Park Prairie, where they will find plenty of nectar to feed on and host plants for the adults to lay their eggs on. The girls reached their hands into the butterfly enclosures to encourage an exit strategy, and to their delight, several of the butterflies landed on their hands or clothing on their way to freedom. This activity was yet another way to get up close to prairie wildlife.
One day was designated as Career Day. Six women in the science field came to camp to discuss their individual career paths. They represented Deer Park ISD’s Outdoor Learning Center, University of Houston Clear Lake Environmental Institute of Houston, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Citizens Environmental Coalition, City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department and the Director of Education for the Native Prairies Association of Texas. This created a lot of discussion with the campers about careers in science.
Tests were administered to the girls at the beginning and ending of the camp. Answering the same questions, their average test scores rose from 49% to 91%, which proves a significant increase in the level of understanding of prairie ecology and ecosystem benefits.
Thanks to the HDR Foundation and Shell Oil for funding this program.