Kids play “Family Feud” at the YMCA pilot of a cancer research summer camp.Kids play “Family Feud” at the YMCA pilot of a cancer research summer camp.

Student promotes YMCA summer camp to educate youth about cancer research

A UWindsor student has sparked a partnership between the Windsor Cancer Research Group and the local Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) to develop a summer camp to help elementary and middle school students understand cancer research.

Rebecca Nakhoul, a fourth-year biology student, pitched the idea to Windsor Cancer Research Group assistant director Karen Metcalfe. With the group’s approval, Nakhoul developed a morning pilot program and debuted it on August 14 with 45 children taking part.

Nakhoul has served with the YMCA as a group leader in its after-school Kids Club program.

“I had a lot of interaction with these kids, and saw how much they loved science, and how much they loved research,” she says. “I was a mega nerd in front of them, but they would always tell me how much they thought my doing research was cool.”

A number of activities were planned for the morning pilot, including cancer dodgeball, a pipette challenge, and a version of the “Family Feud” game show involving cancer facts.

“The kids loved the buzzers,” Nakhoul says.

The ultimate goal is to expand the program to a week-long YMCA summer camp. Nakhoul is planning on enrolling in a service learning course to further develop the program she already started.

“I made a mini-manual with how each of the activities work,” she says. “But I want to take that and expand on it so that it can work with a bigger group of kids and for a longer period of time.”

She will co-ordinate the undertaking with Metcalfe, who will supervise the program’s development.

“There were many activities that we were unable to include because we were crunched for time,” says Metcalfe. “If we are to expand to a full week, we can also better balance outdoor activities with some indoor lab skills and showcase the collaborative nature of research.”

She calls engaging children a natural way to reach out to the community.

“We get to share with them not only what researchers at the University of Windsor are doing, but also the student experience at the university as well,” Metcalfe says. “That we are not just a place where students go to school, but that there are benefits to the community in having our university students going out there and sharing their research experiences.”

—Darko Milenkovic

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