We began teaching intensive, week-long "camps" for students in the summer of 1985, when we offered DNA Science at the Wheatley School in Old Westbury. Since that time, more than 6,700 middle- and high school students have spent a week at one of seven camps offered each summer. Beginning with Fun With DNA in the fifth grade, a student can take a different workshop each summer - culminating with DNA Science and Genomic Biology in high school. Although we know that a number of graduates of the summer camp program become interns at the DNALC, we have long wondered about what the others do after taking one or more of our summer courses. So in 2004, we completed a major survey of students who took summer camps from 1990 to 2001.
We received completed surveys from 798 past participants - 475 were in high school at the time they took the survey and 314 were in college. Clearly the DNALC's workshops cater to a clientele of interested and able students. Majorities of secondary school (62%) and college respondents (82%) said they had been very interested in science in high school. Virtually all of the students in both groups (97%) said they maintained "A" or "B" averages in their high school science courses.
The DNALC has apparently done a good job of building the clientele for its summer camps. Majorities of both groups rated all seven of the DNALC summer courses as very good or excellent. While the average college respondent had taken two DNALC camps during his/her precollege years, current secondary school students had averaged three camps (with 3/4 of respondents still having one or more years until graduation).
Participation in DNALC camps had a number of beneficial effects for the high school and college respondents. Majorities had discussed topics or issues from a workshop with their families (72-75%) and friends (55-59%). Majorities in both groups said that participation in DNALC workshops had: increased their understanding of science stories in the media, increased their general interest in science, improved their confidence in science classes, and encouraged them to take more science offerings. Participation in DNALC workshops strongly influenced 46% of college students to consider majoring in science.