CAC APS, STEM Science Summer Camps off to a rousing start

By Guy Harrison, Media & Marketing Specialist 

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – “Not your typical science classes!” This is the consensus of students who attended the first Central Arizona College Science Camps funded by the APS Foundation at the San Tan Center. 

“It was an amazing experience for my son,” Sue Roberts, a San Tan Valley resident, said. “He couldn’t wait to get there every morning and was excited to tell me everything he experienced when I picked him up seven hours later. He already has asked me numerous times to sign him up for next year.” 

The first four-day session covered the subjects of chemistry and biology and boasted a total of 24 students moving on to the seventh and eighth grades at 13 different middle schools (four of the 24 students are homeschooled). And although it was held at the college’s center in San Tan Valley, the children came from various Pinal County cities, including Apache Junction, Queen Creek, Coolidge, Casa Grande and Florence. 

As is the case with all of CAC’s science camps, there was no cost to register and lunch was included. 

In the chemistry portion of the camp, the students participated in a variety experiments and activities that included the exploration of polymers - or compounds. One such activity had the students combine cornstarch with water in a pool to make a quicksand-like mixture that was especially difficult to wade through. Other polymer activities included de-seeding cotton and using Styrofoam to create spongy foam critters, making superballs, and running plastic through pasta-making machines. 

Another activity called “Artful Chemistry” taught students that mixtures truly are blends of many things. 

“We tested inks and some common beverages to separate the colors using chromatography,” Tammi Janisko, a chemistry professor at CAC who serves as one of the camp’s instructors, explained. “We tried finding the colors with different methods of separation.” 

What resulted was the ability of the students to tie-dye their lab coats, which they were allowed to take home. 

In the last of the chemistry activities, and perhaps most appealing to parents ready to hand over laundry duties to their children, the students experimented with different methods of getting mustard, chocolate, peanut butter, chapstick, egg and ink stains out of cotton using commonly-available solutions like club soda, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, hairspray and toothpaste. 

On the biology side, the activities were just as plentiful. For starters, students were able to use iPad microscopes to capture pictures of specimens unseen by the naked eye, including minerals, water microbes and plants growing around campus. Students entered their best picture into a camp photo contest displayed at the closing ceremony of the camp. 

In an activity called What the ick?! the students collected and studied common bacteria found around campus - in a safe and controlled environment, of course. 

“The students chose places around campus that they thought might have the most bacteria growing on them,” CAC Professor Crystal McKenna, who instructs the biology portion of the camp, said. “They swabbed the locations, transferred it to a Petri dish, and observed their growth two days later to compare which places really were the ‘ickiest’ places on campus.” 

Additionally, the children also learned how to extract DNA from a variety of living things - including fruit - studied skull remains of different animals, and participated in a large squid dissection. 

The camp closed with a presentation by Wildman Phil Rakoci, whose interactive presentation included animals from around Arizona and the Southwest that students were able to see and touch. 

“My daughter was reluctant [to attend the camp] at first because she didn’t know anyone,” Melissa Sarraillon of Coolidge said. “But now she is happy that she was given the opportunity to be part of the fun experiments and activities.” 

Students were enthusiastic about the camp. According to Suzi Shoemaker, who helped oversee the camp as the APS Foundation’s grant coordinator, some students were sad that the camp was only four days instead of five, while others wanted to stay overnight, just to continue experiments and activities. 

“The best feedback we got,” Shoemaker said, “was from a student who said ‘It’s all the stuff you wish you could do in science at school but never get to.’” 

Although the middle school camp is completed, it’s still not too late to register for some of CAC’s other science and STEM camps, funded by the APS Foundation and the college’s Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) grant, respectively: 

CAC Science Camps, funded by the APS Foundation (Incoming 8th through 10th graders)


Chemistry Camp

Signal Peak Campus (Coolidge)

June 17-20, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Topics include: polymers, gases, reactions, metals, acids and bases.


Biology Camp

Signal Peak Campus

June 24-27, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Topics include: microscope use, DNA extraction, bacteria, human enzymes, DNA profile and “Crime Scene” investigation.


CAC Summer Camps funded by STEM (Incoming 8th through 12th graders and 2013 high school graduates)


Chemistry Camp

Maricopa Campus

June 24-27, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Topics include: polymers, gases, metals.


For more information or to register for the CAC Science Camps funded by the APS Foundation, contact Suzi Shoemaker by phone (520-494-5014) or by email ( 

For more information or to register for the CAC Science Camps funded by the STEM grant, contact Yvonne Castillo by phone (520-494-5493) or e-mail (

To register for a camp online, please visit

The STEM Program (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at Central Arizona College is financed 100 percent by a five-year Federal HSI-STEM grant from the US Department of Education. The total federal funds dedicated to this program are $3,388,503.00.

Central Arizona College - District Office 8470 N. Overfield Road, Coolidge, AZ 85128 Phone: 800-237-9814