Gator Lab: 2004-2006

Gator Lab is a middle school science camp at the University of Florida in Gainesville offering a two-week summer day camp designed to provide enrichment experiences for motivated students during the summer following their 6th or 7th grade school year.

Students get “hands-on” experience in what science is really like by interacting with University of Florida scientists, visiting research labs, and participating in teacher-led field trips and recreational activities on campus and in the community. They learn how to observe, hypothesize, gather data, think critically, and draw conclusions about the life and science they see happening around them every day. The summer focuses on two disciplines: Biotechnology and Marine Science, and the relationship between them.

Gator Lab takes place on the University of Florida campus. Off-campus field trips have included places such as: Ichetucknee Springs State Park, The Museum of Science and Industry, The St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Marineland, among others.


Gator Lab Scrapbook

Microscope Pieces and Parts

Students learned the parts and functions of a bifocal microscope and made dry and wet mount slides from which they could illustrate and compare the differences between the types of cells used in the construction of each slide.

“I learned more in two weeks here than I did all year in school!”

Each student was given a composition notebook in which to record lab data, exercises, notes and daily reflections on what had been learned that day.

“I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with others
who shared interests, goals and talents similar to my own.”
Extracting DNA from Cheek Cells

Students extracted cheek cells and placed them into solution which broke down the cellular membranes, then separated the DNA strands using an ethanol bath, enabling them to then see many strands of their own personal DNA.

“I think the most valuable part was the study of DNA – what I didn’t learn in school.”
Fish Habitats with Presentations

Students were put into groups and assigned a different fish habitat. Each group was responsible for relaying information on their habitat to the rest of the class in an informative, educational, creative and entertaining way.

“I liked working with groups. It makes all the projects we do more creative.”
Shark and Perch Dissections

Following a dialogue on the three classes of fish as well as instruction in dissection technique, students were placed in groups of two and each group given a specimen for dissection.

“Dissection was easier than at school because there weren’t
as many students so the Instructor could help us.”
University of Florida Fisheries

Students toured the research facility and participated in a seine netting activity. gathering and identifying a variety of insects, arachnids and other organisms that live in fresh water. They also had the opportunity to fish for catfish, bass, and rainbow trout, in a catch and release program.

“I wouldn’t change a thing! Wait, only one thing… It needs to be longer!”
Water Samples
and Contamination Lab
Students collected water samples from a nearby creek and explored how pollutants would affect the populations of organisms in a water sample.
“The best part about Gator Lab was getting to study stuff I wouldn’t normally study.”
Alligator Talk

Students participated in a discussion of the importance of alligators as a benchmark for pollutants in our environment. They were presented with recent research on the effects of pollutants on alligator growth and reproduction in the state of Florida. Students had the opportunity to hold live alligator hatchlings.

“It was kind of like school, but I loved every minute of it.”

2004 Photos: Session One
2004 Photos: Session Two
2004 Photos: Session Three
2005 Photos
2006 Photos