CASTLE ROCK, Washington — In early August dozens of middle-school girls got a unique hands-on lesson in science.
It was a lesson that took them out of the lab and onto the flanks of a volcano.
We caught up with middle-schooler Rian Newby as she was sliding on a pair of waders to first hike though some pretty rugged terrain and then stand in the middle of a stream.
"With the waders on it feels really weird because you can feel the water and you're not getting wet so it's just weird," Rian explained of the experience.
Rian and 24 other middle-school girls were spending almost an entire week doing things they would not normally do, all in all in the name of science.
The young women, from all across Oregon and Washington, were taking part in the fifth annual GeoGirls camp. It's a five-day, four-night camp that, like its name suggests, is girls only.
"All ladies," USGS geologist Liz Westby said. "Yes, this is an all-lady camp, all female scientists."
And their classroom for the week? One of the most famous volcanoes in the world that just happens to be in their backyard: Mount St. Helens.
The volcano's 1980 eruption was something the girls had certainly learned about in school, but through hands-on research the girls are getting a real-life lesson in how the volcano changed not just the land but also how scientists monitor it.
"This is not a camp where we make baking soda and vinegar volcanoes. We're actually doing the real thing here," Westby said.
Not only is the volcano-themed camp educational and fun, it's also an honor to be selected to participate. The 25 middle-school girls taking part in this week's GeoGirls camp were chosen from a pool of 100 applicants.
"It really opens your eyes as to what you can do," said Sophia Grechishkin from Mount Vernon, Washington.
It's a unique opportunity for girls to explore the field of science on the flanks of a volcano with nature as their classroom.
"When you're in the outdoors you can really see how science relates to what's around you. Instead of it being boring and just a class, you can see how it relates to the world around you," Sophia said. "I think it is very empowering."
Because of donations from universities, private companies, and state and federal agencies, the GeoGirls camp is free for all its participants. All the camp instructors are volunteers.