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Increasing the exposure of school-age-children to real science


ChemGen IGERT fellows volunteered in activities that benefit high school and younger students. For example, Theresa Dinh and Kayla Kaiser were judges for the Plant Biology and Chemistry sections of the Riverside Unified School District High School Science Fair. Both of these IGERT fellows, as well as Michelle Brown, Patrick Schacht and Eddie Cao presented experiments or workshops to high school students on one or multiple occasions.

The importance of these graduate student interactions with young students is highlighted in this description of an activity involving one of our ChemGen IGERT fellows.

Kayla Kaiser, an NSF-sponsored graduate trainee at the University of California, Riverside, hosted a campus visit for approximately 60 students from the 5th grade classrooms of nearby Manual A. Salinas Creative Arts Elementary School. Approximately 90% of Salinas students come from families that are socio-economically disadvantaged and around 50% are from families where English is a second language. According to a teacher at Salinas, these students receive intensive training in the visual and performing arts, but lack exposure to science. The students participated in a series of experiments centered on combustion and explosion, a topic that easily engages 10-year-olds! Students deduced the role of colorless gases in these processes was deduced. More than 10 students had the opportunity to wear a lab coat, gloves and goggles as they assisted the Kayla and three other UCR PhD students in the experimentation. One student who had volunteered to help with a demonstration hesitated with the comment, “I thought girls couldn’t be scientists.” Kayla, who had organized the event, explained to the young student that it takes all kinds of people to do good science. The student simply nodded and gazed thoughtfully at the burning match in her hand. No doubt, this activity sparked inspiration in that student’s mind and may have also igniting a passion for science in others.

Address Goals

The University of California Riverside’s Center for Plant Cell Biology Chemical Genomics Interdisciplinary Graduate Research and Training (ChemGen IGERT) program trainees actively participate in mentoring high school students. In 2008/09, several students in the program participated in activities to expand scientific literacy to students in K-12 schools.