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Students explore the stars at M State Physics Camp

Middle school students from five area communities explored the stars and college life during a residential physics camp in June at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls.

Forty students in grades 6-9 from Battle Lake, Fergus Falls, Underwood, Verndale and Wadena participated in the camp, which focused on basic astronomy, science and math. Led by M State - Fergus Falls physics instructor Nandini Banerji and math instructor Larisa Mardiyev, the sessions featured hands-on science and astronomy activities, math-focused games and interesting experiments.

The camp also included outdoor recreation activities, reading, playing music, creating art, testing refractor telescopes and a visit to the planetarium at Minnesota State University in Moorhead, and participants each received a free telescope, planet sphere, knapsack and notebook so they could continue to record their astronomy observations at home.

Students stayed in the M State on-campus housing during the four-day camp.

This is the third year that M State has hosted the camp, which was funded by a grant designed to strengthen math and science skills and to encourage middle school-age students to think about college. The grant was awarded to M State's Center for College Readiness, which targets low income and underrepresented students in providing college preparatory support to participating middle school and high school teachers and students.

CCR Director Paul Drange said that the Physics Camp and the other camps supported by the Center "allow for a unique learning opportunity for students."

"The students receive focused instruction that increases their awareness of science at work around them," Drange said. "The M State camp also provides students the opportunity to stay overnight on campus, which gives students a real-life look into what the college experience might be like for them in the future."