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07/30/2007 07:00:00

Caltech Summer Camp Helps Kids Envision City on Mars

PASADENA, Calif.- Summer camp usually involves making craft projects and singing around the campfire, but at the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, campers use their imaginations and knowledge to design a community on Mars.

The first-ever "Fantastic Summer Science" camp organized by the Child Educational Center will involve visits to labs at Caltech and JPL, where children in grades 1 to 7 will learn not only the technical requirements for sustaining a community on Mars, but also the social science aspects of bringing individuals together to create a successful society.

The camp, which will be held from August 6 to 10 and is completely full, will provide children with the opportunity to explore the physical and natural sciences via behind-the-scenes tours at JPL and Caltech. This camp will take an inquiry-based approach, and the staff will emphasize on inspiring the children's curiosity and desire to learn.

The camp activity is part of JPL's Imagine Mars Project, a national arts, sciences, and technology education initiative in which students work together with scientists, engineers, artists, and civic leaders to design and share a futuristic Mars community for 100 people.

The children will learn about the extremely harsh Martian environment and imagine what human existence might be like on Mars. Caltech and JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA, have worked closely together on several Mars projects.

The children will visit the Mars Yard (a replicated Mars environment) at JPL and will speak with JPL and Caltech experts as they begin to create their model community. At Caltech, they will meet Michelle Thaller, a research scientist at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, who will show them how an infrared camera can depict slight variations in temperature, and how this instrument is used by the Mars Rover to get information on the planet surface. They will also receive a tour of the Seismology Lab with Margaret Vinci from the Caltech Office of Earthquake Programs and they will learn about the differences between the crusts of Mars and Earth.

At the conclusion of the camp, the children will give a final presentation to their teachers and families.

The CEC is a private, nonprofit organization and was founded in 1979 at the behest of Caltech and JPL in order to offer a high-quality child-care program for its employees. CEC is also open to children in the surrounding community. The CEC is accredited and concentrates on helping children grow and learn intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally. For more information go to http://www.ceconline.org/.

Written by Anna Fioretti