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Elementary Mad Scientists

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Outreach: Five Palms Elementary School

Author: Karina Patino-Guzman | Category: Community Outreach | June 30, 2014

On May 29th, fifty-seven fortunate fourth graders at Five Palms Elementary School had their first encounter with ‘real’ biological scientists. For those familiar with UTHSCSA’s grant ‘lingo’, these ‘biological scientist’ whom I referred to are none other than our UTHSCSA Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Graduate Students.

Under the direction of Dr. Nicquet Blake, the IMSD program has kept their annual tradition of dedicating one day to the service of others. This year, the IMSD students tackled a much larger and younger audience for their outreach event. Keeping in mind that they were working with fourth graders who have yet to learn the importance of a p53 gene or the composition of their genetic makeup, these highly interactive scientific workshops were developed to demonstrate complex scientific material.

Principles of basic microscopy were taught as students built a functional microscope using plywood, Plexiglas and a Smartphone to serve as magnification. DNA was extracted from bananas and strawberries using products typically found around the home.  

Students were allowed to touch and feel a brain and body-plasticized specimens while learning the importance of wearing helmets when skateboarding or the dangers of smoking. This student driven event had the fourth graders on the edge of their seats. Eager to learn and bombarding their IMSD mentor with scientific questions, the Five Palms Elementary teachers were impressed telling us “Many of the students who experienced difficulties engaging in classes were some of the most engaged and excited during the lab experiments.  It was wonderful to see!”

Although the IMSD group is relatively small in size, our students have great intentions of making a profound impact in their community. They hope to inspire young minds and to help nurture students who desire a career in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

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