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No bones about it: This camp is cool

Science in the City camp immerses middle schoolers in hands-on activities.
Valley eighth-graders gather crime evidence, deduce whodunit at ASU lab.
June 21, 2016

Phoenix eighth-graders use biology, critical thinking to solve crimes at ASU in whodunit portion of Science in the City camp

Who stole the bones at ASU? That’s the question that eighth-grade crime solvers from Phoenix are investigating on Wednesday and Thursday mornings this month in the science labs at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

Biology lecturer Cayle Lisenbee is introducing the kids to forensic science as they work to figure out how an entire (plastic) skeleton has disappeared from a locked cabinet in one of the College of Letters and Sciences’ teaching laboratories.  

Lisenbee’s program is one stop in Science in the City, a summer day camp organized by the Phoenix Union High School District to bring science alive for middle schoolers by immersing them in hands-on activities at a range of community sites.

In another stop at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus, the campers explore the science of healthy life choices in the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, a unit in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

The Science in the City program runs for three weeks, with a new cohort of students rotating through the modules each week.

“When the kids arrive in the lab, we first talk about some of the science opportunities they’ll find at ASU and some of the careers that are a natural fit with particular degrees,” Lisenbee said. “The crime-solving activity unfolds organically. We tell them they’ll be studying a human skeleton, and when they go to the lab cabinet to get it set up, they find it’s missing.”

The kids gather fibers at the crime scene and analyze them with the microscope. They scrape and culture microbes from hard surfaces to see what grows. They lift and study fingerprints from a beaker near the cabinet and use critical thinking skills to identify suspects. Eventually, they’re able to secure surveillance video that confirms or disproves their conclusions.   

“Once the culprit has been identified and the bones returned, we ask the kids to reconstruct, as best they can, a complete human skeleton. We throw some extra bones into the mix or leave a few out and ask the kids to analyze what the irregularities might mean,” said Lisenbee, who has been coordinating and teaching the College of Letters and Sciences’ component of the Science in the City outreach program for the past 10 years.

He said that, as much as he enjoys guiding the kids through this learning experience, the partnerships he has developed with Phoenix Union High School District teachers have been especially fruitful.

“We’re allies in finding ways to get kids to want to continue to pursue science in high school so that they’ll be college-ready when they graduate. For some of these kids, it’s also their first understanding that they have access to an ASU campus right here in downtown Phoenix.

“We also share teaching ideas, and I’ve helped them to develop some fun lab exercises. It’s just a great community collaboration.”

Top photo: Eighth-graders from the Phoenix Union High School District "Science in the City" program used biology, scientific inquiry and critical thinking to solve a mystery in a teaching lab in ASU's College of Letters and Sciences at the Downtown Phoenix campus on June 8-9. Two additional cohorts of Science in the City students experienced this module on June 15-16 and June 22-23. Photo by: Maureen Roen/ASU College of Letters and Sciences

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services , College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


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Teens discover all the possibilities of college

ASU program for Fleischer Scholars eases the pathway to college.
June 21, 2016

ASU's W. P. Carey School hosts Fleischer Scholars — promising high schoolers who need extra help navigating to their futures

Sometimes, leaders are just regular people who step up when they have to, the room full of teenagers learned.

“Once you take that first step, you can build from there,” advised Lissa Leibson, a mentor in the Fleischer Scholars program at Arizona State University.

The teenagers who cheered her speech were attending a weeklong camp sponsored by the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU.

The high schoolers, who will be seniors in the fall, were selected for the all-expense-paid camp because they demonstrated that they have great potential but might not have the resources to be ready for college. Most of the 21 Fleischer Scholars in the June program would be the first in their families to attend college, and some are from low-income families, according to Danna Remillard, coordinator of admissions and special events at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“What we look for is students who might not know that college is possible, or have as much access to college prep or college-readiness programs,” Remillard said, adding the average GPA of the group was 3.5. Another cohort of Fleischer Scholars will attend camp in July.

The students find out about majors, how to pay for college, early-admission requirements and anything else they’re curious about.

At a session on leadership, the high schoolers discussed their clubs and organizations, and what it takes to be a leader.

Leibson told the group how leadership can happen when they least expect it. She was secretary of her high school’s service club but was suddenly promoted when the president didn’t show up and she had to jump in and lead a meeting with a group of food-bank administrators.

“I was that person who liked to hide behind a computer. But I realized that if no one started the meeting, these kids wouldn’t get food,” said Leibson, now a junior in the W. P. Carey School of Business majoring in supply-chain management.

“I had never led a meeting in my life. I wondered, ‘Am I allowed to drink water?’ ”

She ended up organizing nine high schools in a citywide food drive in her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.

The lead mentor in the June session was Samuel De La Ossa, a sophomore majoring in business communications.

Samuel De La Ossa

Samuel De La Ossa, a business communications major at the W. P. Carey School of Business, was the lead mentor for the Fleischer Scholars camp. He was a Fleischer Scholar in 2014. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

De La Ossa was a Fleischer Scholar in 2014, just before his senior year at Marcos de Niza High School in the Tempe Union High School District.

“Did I think with my core GPA of 2.8 that I would get into W. P. Carey? Fleischer gave me the resources and everything I needed to get here,” he told the students.

De La Ossa said the mentorship connection is vital.

“The biggest thing I want them to take away is that they have a friend. This is a Fleischer family,” said De La Ossa, who is still friends with the mentors from his camp two years ago. “It works. We’re able to break through to these juniors and make sure they’re not nervous and give them the resources they need.”

Melanie Diaz (pictured in photo at top), who will be a senior at Sierra Linda High School in the Tolleson Union High School District, would be the first in her family to attend college.

“This camp has really opened my eyes to all the possibilities,” she said. “I didn’t know there were so many degrees you could go for.”

Of the 201 Fleischer Scholars since the first session in 2010, 70 percent have been admitted to ASU, Remillard said.

The program is funded by real-estate investor and entrepreneur Mort Fleischer and his wife, Donna Fleischer, who live in Scottsdale. 

Because of Mort Fleischer’s background of success launching and selling various businesses, the camp promotes entrepreneurship. The teens and mentors form teams to create entrepreneurial projects together.

“We tell them to solve a problem in their world, and they come up with these great ideas,” Remillard said. Previous campers created a smartphone application to find medical advice and an after-school enrichment program.

“They really feel ownership of these projects. They’re in high school, and adults are trusting them to create something.”

Top photo: Melanie Diaz, who will be senior at Sierra Linda High School in Phoenix, talks about her leadership positions during a session of the Fleischer Scholars camp June 16 at Arizona State University. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now