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 Camp Students Help Collect Scientific Data

Students from throughout the county are getting a chance to participate in hands-on science lessons at 6th Grade Camp while providing important information to researchers at UC Riverside.

The work is part of a study about the goldspotted oak borer, a destructive beetle that has been killing trees at the camp Cuyamaca site, which is run by San Diego County Office of Education's Outdoor Education unit. Students are helping to identify and tag trees that have been damaged by the beetle.

Principal Greg Schuett started the collaboration with Cara Washington, a graduate student at UC Riverside and Kevin Turner, a retired member of the U.S. Forest Service.

 "I was looking for opportunities for our students to be involved in real-world science projects," Schuett said.

Teachers at the outdoor school located in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park put together lesson plans for the work that are tied in with Next Generation Science Standards.

UC Riverside sent everything the students needed for the work, including samples of the beetles and bark, information and tags for the trees. The information they collect will go into larger maps of trees throughout the region that are infested by the beetle. The researchers putting together the maps didn't have any data about Cuyamaca Rancho State Park before the students started the work, Schuett said.

"They're not just involved in it because it involves the kids, but they're really excited to get the data," he said.

To identify the damaged trees, students are looking for signs of infestation, including a thinning crown, peeling bark and small D-shaped holes in the bark.

The goldspotted oak borers came to the area from Arizona when somebody brought infested firewood.

The work started in October with three teachers and is expected to include all of the students who attend 6th Grade Camp beginning in February.

"They're going to feel so good about themselves for participating in an important science project," Schuett said.

With 25,000 acres around the camp, Schuett said he doesn't expect the students will ever run out of trees to study and tag.

The outdoor school at Camp Cuyamaca serves about 12,000 students each year during four- or five-day excursions. The camp in the mountains east of San Diego features hands-on lessons that incorporate life science, earth science, outdoor skills, Native American lore and art and many social growth opportunities.