Removing Barriers

Winter 2019

Ciaran Harman
(Image: Will Kirk / Homewood Photography)

Aicha’s task was to dam a river with her bare hands. She succeeded —until the water pumping through the stream table on the Ames Hall courtyard found another path underground.

That introduction to groundwater was exactly the kind of hands-on lesson Ciaran Harman, Russell Croft Faculty Scholar and assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, had in mind when he conceived the YES (“young environmental scientists”) Connect Summer Camp, which launched last summer in partnership with the Whiting School’s Center for Educational Outreach.

Rising fourth graders from Baltimore City Public Schools took nature-based day trips and explored forest ecosystems at Notre Dame of Maryland University’s highly regarded STEM day camp. The camp was free, thanks to National Science Foundation funding.

“For many families, myriad small logistical and financial barriers add up to giant roadblocks that limit the access these kids have to summer STEM programming,” says Harman. “By breaking these down, I hope we have pushed back against the mental barriers that tell them they can’t be scientists and engineers.”