Chemistry Summer Camp - An Overview

Oh summertime! My non-teacher friends and neighbors like to point out that it must be great having summers off from work. I try to explain that I’m still working although it’s really nice having a break from the students. And I know that a lot of colleagues in my PLN on Twitter are enjoying their break from students too while still spending some time working on upcoming challenges and curriculum designs. My summer consists of 3 summer camps (one chemistry and two middle school programming camps), School Improvement team work (preparing for PSAT and reading strategies in science courses), district tech camp (presenting on Social Media/PLN and Graphing with Google Sheets), curriculum design for my new web design course, and most importantly, renovating a bedroom in our house to be a nursery for our daughter being born in August. I’m hoping to be finished with the nursery this week, even with a morning camp taking place.


From June 15-19, I hosted my first summer camp. It was called Get a Reaction Using Chemistry! and was available to incoming grades 10-12. The camp was set up by the Portage Education Foundation (PEF) and was sponsored by EATON Corporation among others. The PEF has been able to “underwrite Summer Technology Exploration Program (STEP) camps to engage summertime learning for Portage Public Schools students. Most camps are free and fill up quickly.”  The camp description consisted of the following:


Experience the wonder and excitement of chemical reactions while learning about the science application in our day-to-day lives. First, students will be led through hands-on labs to isolate plant pigments. Then they will visit Kalamazoo College to work in an organic chemistry lab where they will conduct an experiment and characterize their products by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Infrared Spectroscopy (IS) and Mass Spectroscopy(MS). Finally, a field trip to Summit Polymers to learn first hand how polymers are used in building automobiles. Incoming grades 10-12.


The camp did not necessarily follow the description. We were unable to go to Summit Polymers in the Kalamazoo area and my lab contact at Kalamazoo College and I changed the experiment students were going to do - limonene extraction so only GC/MS was utilized.


Following is breakdown of the schedule and the topics covered. Subsequent blog posts will dive into each activity with summaries, thoughts, and pictures.


  • Monday June 15th - plant pigment and photosynthesis AP Biology lab activity which included chromatography and spectrophotometry.

  • Tuesday June 16th - field trip to Kalamazoo College courtesy of Jeff Bartz (@laserbartz), a physical chemistry professor who uses lasers in his research ( Lab activity consisted of extraction of limonene from orange peels and characterization by GC/MS. We worked with Kent Lawrence, a former analytical chemist (environmental chemistry lab) and current assistant stockroom manager at the college.

  • Wednesday June 17th - Day 1 of rocket lab via Steve Sogo from Laguna Beach High School in Laguna Beach, CA.

  • Thursday June 18th - Electrochemistry project where students worked through the activity series and constructed voltaic and galvanic cells. The materials for this activity were on backorder a long time and finally arrived on Wednesday June 17th.

  • Friday June 19th - Day 2 of rocket lab via Steve Sogo at Laguna Beach High School in Laguna Beach, CA.

All in all the Chemistry STEP camp was a success and I hope to do it again in future summers.