Launched in July of 2001, the Environmental Science Summer Research Experience for Young Women is a three-week summer internship in environmental field studies for 9th and 10th-grade girls from the greater Baltimore area. Participants explore the soil chemistry and biota of the Roland Park Country School campus, author and test lab activities for studying soil microenvironments, and adapt these labs for dissemination and use in a wide variety of educational situations and socio-economic conditions. The program’s primary objectives are to give this target audience the opportunity to engage in authentic, self-directed primary research into the ecological roles of soil microbes and, as a result, to nurture their interest in science in general as a possible career option.

Now in its 21st year, E.S.S.R.E. has received national recognition for our efforts to promote the study of soil ecology, including the 2006 SeaWorld/Busch Gardens/Fuji Film Environmental Excellence Award and inclusion in the monograph, Exemplary Science for Resolving Societal Challenges by the National Science Teachers Association. Former interns have gone on to work at national research centers such as the University of Maryland’s Center of Marine Biotechnology, the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Palo Alto VA Hospital, MITRE’s Nanosystems Group, and the Johns Hopkins Space Telescope Science Institute. Many graduates of the program have pursued careers in science, earning significant scholarships including the Ethyl and Albemarle Science Scholarship from the University of Richmond, the Meyerhoff Scholarship from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the National Science Foundation’s STEP program at Dickinson College, the John P. McNulty Scholars Program at St. Joseph University, and the Johnson Scholarship at Washington and Lee University. A lab manual based on the girls’ work was published in 2008, and several past interns still earn royalties for ideas they developed out of their work in the program.

You can learn more about E.S.S.R.E. by visiting one of the yearly program pages to watch one of their videos, and we sincerely hope that you might join us in our endeavors. To apply for the 2022 program (tentative dates: June 23rd – July 14th), simply submit an application to the Project Director through this link. The deadline to submit your application is January 21st 2022.  The application opens on December 13th 2021.   Questions can be directed to the Project Director, Cheryl Carmona, at carmonac@rpcs.org.


Program Description

Run in conjunction with the RPCS 9th grade soil ecology project, “The Little Things that Run the World”, E.S.S.R.E. offers adolescent girls a unique and challenging educational opportunity and provides educators around the country with labs and soil ecology lessons to help implement the Next Generation Science Standards in their classrooms and courses. Participants in E.S.S.R.E. engage in a wide variety of activities during their internships. Depending on the prior skills and backgrounds of those involved, these can and have included:

  • performing a broad general survey of the biotic and abiotic factors located within the urban woodland on the school’s campus using standard biodiversity protocols;
  • generating a baseline of data for studying soil microbes and their environmental conditions from this survey;
  • using the baseline data to design, and perform experimental investigations into one specific aspect of soil microecology of the participants own choosing;
  • developing these investigations into inquiry lesson plans and the requisite support materials for use in other classrooms; and
  • modifying and verifying both the research protocols and the lesson plans to make them easily accessible to all schools, regardless of their physical or economic situation (including urban schools, schools with inadequate funding, and schools that teach populations of students traditionally under-represented in science).

In addition, interns customize and prepare their experiments, activities, lessons, and data for dispersion to the wider science education community via the Internet, and each research team must create their own web page to make available to other schools, teachers, and pupils all the classroom materials produced through this program, along with the database of information collected from the initial survey as well.

Finally, everyone involved with this project learns various general science research skills, including specifically (but not limited to):

  • how to perform advanced statistical analysis (including student t-test & regression analysis);
  • how to write a scientific paper for submission for publication in a professional journal;
  • how to keep a field research journal; and
  • how to generate and prepare an annotated bibliography.

For their participation in the program, all students are paid a small stipend.

Previously, the program’s website operated under the URL essre.rpcs.org, however in 2019, we switched software and now only operate under this current URL. Our previous website is archived and you can access it by clicking here.

Further Information

To learn more about E.S.S.R.E., follow one of our links above to learn more about an individual year’s program.