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Local Kids Spend Time with Scientists in their ‘Natural Habitats’

March 15, 2012

Graduate student Sarah Zukoff watches as five elementary aged students look through microscopes.

Entomology graduate student, Sarah Zukoff, shows students how to identify aquatic organisms in order to determine the health of an aquatic ecosystem.

Columbia, Mo — Fourth and fifth grade students from five Columbia elementary schools spent a full day doing science experiments and learning from scientists in their ‘natural habitat’ at a Science Safari event held at MU on February 10, 2012.

“We designed the event to give kids a hands-on research experience that they wouldn’t have in the classroom given the size of their classes and the lack of accessibility to some equipment, like the centrifuges used to isolate DNA,” said Candi Galen, MU professor of biological sciences and director of the GK-12 outreach program that sponsored the event.

The day was organized around four one-hour research workshops. The students got the chance to help trace the nervous system in mice as part of a study of genes causing spinal disease, extract DNA from fake elephant dung and real fungus, assess the health of ecosystems by peering at pond organisms under microscopes, and explore fragrance molecular building blocks to create models of odors from simple molecules.

Graduate students Jeff Dale, Jeremy Gibson, Stephanie Schuttler, and Logan Decker, from biological sciences; Lianne Hibbert from fisheries and wildlife; Sarah Zuckoff from entomology; Chad King from forestry; and Clayton Coffmann from plant sciences led the Science Safari workshops.

Students also attended a “Scientist Winter Wonderland,” during which faculty and graduate students shared their research including how fire affects grasslands and frogs cope with winter cold. In keeping with the wintery theme, the day wrapped up with a treat provided by Buck’s Ice Cream Place.

Throughout the day, the students visited labs Tucker Hall and the Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources building. They also visited the Bond Life Sciences Center and the new Student Center.

Students from Cedar Ridge, Fairview, Benton, Two Mile Prairie, and West Boulevard elementary schools participated in the Science Safari.

The daylong event was organized and sponsored by ShowMe Nature, an NSF-funded GK-12 program that bridges scientific research at the University of Missouri and science education in the Columbia Public School District. The ShowMe Nature program is coordinated by Galen with assistance from Anna Waldron and Deanna Lankford, with the MU Office of Science Outreach, and Nicole Miller-Struttmann, with the Division of Biological Sciences.

More information about the GK-12 program and its events are available from the ShowMe Nature GK-12 website.

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Written by: Emily Haghighi

Related categories:
Science Outreach