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Camp C.O.R.E.: A New Way to Learn

A 12-year-old fills her glass with water from the sink. She watches the water slowly trickle out of the faucet and into the glass. “Because water molecules are polar, they stick together like magnets,” she says. In the other room, her 14-year-old brother views a show about oil fracking. "Fossil fuels initially made our lives easier, but the environment has suffered consequences in the long run,” he reflects.

These kids are learning science outside of the classroom thanks to Camp C.O.R.E., a graphic novel published by BYU's College of Life Sciences. The novel was created through founder and author Anna Wright (BFA '22) and project director Sophie Hill (BIO '09), who is currently a postdoctoral fellow. The C.O.R.E. acronym meaning is revealed throughout the novel, which is available for free online in book and video formats.

Five illustrated characters pose together in the woods. A medium-skinned woman holding a blue flag that says, "Camp C.O.R.E.," and a dark-skinned man playing a guitar stand in the back row. Three children are in the front row: a light-skinned girl dressed in pink and kneeling with her arms thrown out, a light-skinned boy sitting cross-legged and holding a colored rope, and a medium-skinned girl kneeling and holding a potted plant. All five characters are smiling and look happy to be together.
Courtesy of Anna Wright

The graphic novel, filled with vibrant colors and lovable characters, chronicles the learning process of five fictional students ranging in age from 12 to 15. The characters are “zapped” into simulations that teach them about properties of water, ecosystems, and pollution—as well as how to work with people who are different from them. After the simulations, the characters must come together to help clean up Earth and fight global warming.

Hill says it has been fun to see how science can meet visual stimulation in order to teach kids science. “[It’s] usually focused on writing boring scientific papers to read,” Hill says, emphasizing that translating scientific principles into engaging characters and bright colors is a new world of learning.

“We tried really hard to make a novel that is both engaging to read and informative,” says Manon Hale (BFA ’22), an artist who helped with the novel. She feels learning about environmental issues is important for everyone and hopes the graphic novel will help kids “see themselves in our characters and find their own way to care for our world.”

Wright founded the project because she wants kids to feel empowered in their learning. “I want them to feel like they can be themselves, that it's okay for them to be whatever version of themselves that they are. Everybody has something they can contribute to the world, and I want them to figure out their superpower,” Wright says. Though the Camp C.O.R.E. characters aren’t superheroes themselves, they stand as good role models for kids to use their talents.

Wright chose a graphic novel format because it is a popular medium for kids and young adults, and she says she is glad she chose it because it allowed for contributions from all kinds of artists, writers, and scientists.

“I loved being able to use my art ability toward raising awareness and educating on an issue that affects us all,” shares Hale. “I felt a real sense of purpose and responsibility. I was motivated to both tell a good story and get others invested in climate change solutions and environmental awareness.”

While the book is an excellent resource in itself, it is but one part of an entire BYU web page providing information about the water cycle. The page seeks to teach readers about the importance of striving to keep our environment clean so our water can be clean.

Graphic Novel Characters
Courtesy of Anna Wright