Jefferson Lab to Host Camp for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Youth

WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

Kids at last year's camp communicated in sign language as well as through talking as they worked together on a number of experiments and activities.
Kids at last year’s camp communicated in sign language as well as through talking as they worked together on a number of experiments and activities. (Courtesy of Jefferson Lab)

Rising fourth- through rising eighth-graders who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have the opportunity this summer to participate in a science camp at Jefferson Lab geared toward their needs.

Brita Hampton, the Science Education Administrator at Jefferson Lab, first got the idea for the camp after she took an American Sign Language course at Tidewater Community College.

“I started thinking of a way to combine my love of science, my love of teaching and my love of sign language, which is when I brought the idea back to Jefferson Lab,” Hampton said. “We have this great space and we aren’t as busy in the summer, so I proposed the idea of holding a camp.”

Once Jefferson Lab was on board, Hampton began putting together the camp, which offered three days of discussions and activities for a small group of deaf and hard-of-hearing kids presented in a combination voice and sign language format.

Hampton expected to have four or five kids to attend when the camp launched last year, but ultimately eight signed up. More significantly, two of the students came from Northern Virginia, which showed Hampton there was a far-reaching demand for this kind of experience.

Bearing in mind the unexpectedly strong turnout last year and the students’ expressions of enthusiasm upon completion of the camp, this year’s iteration has been expanded in more ways than one.

This year the camp will be split into two sections and take place over five days, from Aug. 10 through 14. The latter half of the week will be modeled similarly to last year’s session, with students communicating with both voice and sign language.

New this year will be the two-day session at the start of the week that will operate completely in sign language with no voice component.

“Doing a no voice session was the goal all along, but we wanted to keep it simple the first year. Now we have the chance to kick it up a notch,” Hampton said.

Other new features this year include making participation open to siblings of deaf or hard-of-hearing children as well as the children of deaf or hard-of-hearing adults. This change was made to “more fully include the deaf community as a whole,” Hampton said.

As for what is staying the same, the camp will continue to focus on physics-based science, in keeping with the work done at Jefferson Lab.

One of the most successful activities from last year asked students to roll a marble at a “secret” shape hidden under a pie plate and then guess the shape. This experiment mimics much of the research on atoms conducted at Jefferson Lab.

Because of the increased length of the camp, Hampton hopes to add more life and environmental science activities this year, as well as an art component. She also has been reaching out to potential guest speakers within the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

“We would love to have a deaf or hard-of-hearing adult with a [science, technology, engineering or mathematics] background come and talk about their experiences. I think it would be very empowering for the kids to see that they can do anything as deaf or hard-of-hearing people and they aren’t limited,” Hampton said.

Moving forward, Hampton hopes to continue to expand the offerings of the camp. She also has been speaking to teachers around Newport News about the possibility of starting a science club specifically for deaf and hard of hearing students in local schools.

“We just want kids to get excited about science all year round,” Hampton said.

Registration for the no voice portion of the camp is full, but there are still slots available for the combination voice and sign language portion. The camp takes place each day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the classrooms located in Jefferson Lab’s Support Service Center, Building 28.

Registration is free but required in advance, and interested parties should contact Hampton at Hampton@jlab.org.