POTSDAM - The classroom smelled more like a beauty parlor than a laboratory, but the 24 girls in Clarkson University's Horizons II summer program were getting a hands-on look at science.
Established by the college in 1989, the Horizons program is an annual camp designed to promote science, technology, math and engineering among gifted middle and high school girls. Wednesday morning found the participants in the Horizons II environmental science class chatting and collaborating as they created bags, honey lip balm and brown sugar body scrub out of common household items.
"We try to do things that appeal to females," said Jennifer M. de Coste, Clarkson's associate vice president for institutional diversity initiatives. "The entire program is experiential: the girls get hands-on experiences with research, methodologies for sampling, applied math. We try to tie this all together in a package of leadership."
In addition to Horizons II, which highlights mathematics and engineering for rising ninth graders, Clarkson University also sponsors Horizons I, which teaches real-world applications of math and science to rising eighth graders, and Horizons III, which is a college preparation camp for girls who have participated in Horizons I and II.
The camp, which sees about 300 participants annually, sponsored two weeklong residential sessions this year and is considering expanding its offerings in the future.
Along with the environmental science class, this week's camp session saw a variety of math, engineering and self-empowerment classes taught by a mix of north country secondary teachers and college faculty. While the Horizons II program offers a chance to build Rube Goldberg machines and investigate the mathematics behind board games, Horizons I features a mock crime scene investigation and a swamp expedition and Horizons III has provided mock interviews and resume-building tips.
"It's really fun. We all do projects and learn neat things that we didn't in classes in school," said Horizons II participant Samantha A. Menapace, a rising freshman at Sackets Harbor Central High. "It shows you a different perspective."
Although most of the Horizons participants are from the north country, some hail from other regions of New York state and beyond. According to Ms. de Coste, the program provides not only academic enrichment but also an environment of comfort and support for young women with similar interests.
"For me, it's about building confidence and leadership skills," said 13-year-old Natika M. Walters, a rising freshman at South Lewis High School and a participant in Horizons II. "It gives you a chance to talk with people who are about the same skill level at math and science as you."