In July, 20 local middle school students will have the opportunity to attend a new week-long science summer camp on Yale’s West Campus. But unlike the other 16 summer camps run by the Peabody Museum of Natural History and the West Campus, this new one will be free of charge.

Yale’s Science Pathways Program, a New Haven education outreach initiative started in January by the University’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs, is currently in the process of launching the Peabody Museum Summer Youth Institute, program administrators said. The program aims to inspire middle school students to remain interested in the sciences throughout high school, said Jane Pickering, the assistant director for public programs for the Peabody Museum.

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The camp is supported by a $1 million fund University President Richard Levin set aside in 2007 for local science education over a period of three to four years. In contrast to the new program, the 16 other Peabody and West Campus camps cost between $265 and $315 per week.

“The idea of a free summer program focusing on the sciences is something that the [New Haven school district] would be more than willing to support and promote,” said New Haven Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Wade.

Joanna Price, the coordinator of community programs in science for the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, said the camp is the latest in a series of science educational outreach programs offered by the Yale Science Pathways program, which seeks out talented science students who attend public middle schools and high schools in New Haven and West Haven. Recent Science Pathways events, she said, have included a brain awareness day for high school students and a star-gazing event for middle school students at Yale’s Leitner Observatory.

The camp will aim to provide campers with hands-on science research experience, access to Peabody Museum collections and a chance to explore nature, West Campus education coordinator Thomas Parlapiano said.

“Our goal is to expose students to science from a museum perspective,” Parlapiano said. “A lot of research goes on behind the scenes.”

Campers will be able to take advantage of the Oyster River next to the West Campus, where they will study archaeological techniques, Parlapiano said. He added that the Peabody Museum collections currently housed in the A21 warehouse building on the West Campus will serve as supplements to the camp’s programming.

Wade added that the New Haven school district is enthusiastic about the camp, citing the district’s focus on science, technology, engineering and math education.

The new camp will join the ranks of 16 other week-long camps Yale will be offering this summer to elementary school and middle school students at both the Peabody Museum and the West Campus, Parlapiano said. The camps range from the Peabody Museum’s archaeology camp, where campers participate in hands-on archaeological digs, to the West Campus’ “Wings & Things” program, which features live owls and bats and is recommended for rising fourth graders to sixth graders. Josue Irizarry, the director of the Peabody Museum’s camps, said Peabody Museum collection managers will give up some of their free time to provide behind-the-scenes tours for the campers.

Twelve of the 16 camps are based at the Peabody Museum, while the remaining four are run on the West Campus, he said. The Peabody Museum’s camps are now in their seventh year, while the West Campus camps started last year, Irizarry said.

There is space for about 450 campers in the camps, which run in July and August, but only 178 students are currently signed up, Irizarry said.

Mailings for the camp will be sent out within the next few days, Price said, and applications, which are limited to Science Pathway program participants, are due April 16. The camp will run from July 26 to July 30, Price said.