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Middle schoolers leading the way in scientific research

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Middle schoolers leading the way in scientific research
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They may not be old enough to drive, but that doesn't mean they can't make a difference. Tamara Lindstrom caught up with some Tompkins County middle schoolers who are spending their summer learning what it means to be a citizen scientist.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Just behind the Sciencenter in downtown Ithaca, researchers are busy collecting important data and they've got some big boots to fill.

"Today we were trying to measure how healthy the stream was and figure out the pH balance and the chlorides and nitrates and all sorts of things about the stream," said Kristen Galvin, a counselor in training.

"We are testing to see what kind of stuff is in the water, like woody debris and that kind of stuff. We're seeing how deep it is, so we will test at four different points how deep it is," said counselor in training Kevin Klaben.

Leading the group are the Sciencenter's counselors in training, middle schoolers with a passion for exploration.

Klaben said, "It gives us experience of what it might be like to do something as a scientist or a researcher. So it shows us the protocols and that kind of stuff you have to take."

"The thing that's really exciting for our middle schoolers and the part that I think is really empowering for them is they are actually leading this activity for our guests. So we, every afternoon, invite guests to come and participate in activities that's being led by our counselors in training, the people that we're trying to train to be future science leaders," said Michelle Kortenaar, Sciencenter Education Director.

While sloshing around in a creek isn't a bad way to spend a summer day, the kids are doing real research and hopefully sparking a lifelong interest in science.

Kortenaar said, "Middle school is a time when kids start making decisions about their futures and what kinds of things they're going to do. And we want as many kids as possible to stay on in science. Whether as careers or as areas of study or just areas so that they something to be good citizens."

While they may be a few years away from picking a permanent career, the young scientists are learning to be leaders.

Galvin said, "I think it's really important because if you don't know about the Earth, you don't know about where you're living."

And teaching others about the Earth is a challenge these counselors are taking on, one step at a time.

Time Warner Cable is the parent company of YNN and we are committed to the Connect a Million Minds program, inspiring youth to develop science, technology, engineering and math skills. For more information on the initiative, go to connectamillionminds.com.

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