An elementary after-school science club run by graduate students at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences has garnered national recognition for a local YMCA program at Eugene Field Elementary School.
After a recent evaluation, the YMCA of the USA recommended that the YMCA of Greater Tulsa’s Graduate Oklahoma (GO) Club be recognized as a “Bright Spot” and shared as a national model with YMCA chapters across the country.
The Way Cool Science Club at Eugene Field Elementary was launched last year by OSU-CHS graduate students enrolled in the Scientific Outreach course. The class was designed to train graduate students to develop and institute scientific outreach programs for kids.
Each week, graduate students help 4th- and 5th-graders conduct experiments and research projects after school with the goal of sparking children’s interest in science.
“Our graduate students have worked very hard to deliver a quality science experience for Eugene Field students each week,” said Kath Curtis, Ph.D., OSU-CHS associate professor of physiology, instructor of the Scientific Outreach course and coordinator of the Way Cool Science Club. “Ultimately, the success of each experiment is less important than building an interest in science and making connections with elementary students.”
Among the research topics this year, kids learned why some cereal is preferred over others, what taste buds look like under the microscope, how genetics influences traits like eye color and how the digestive system works – all through conducting scientific experiments, she said.
After its recent observation of the afterschool program, the YMCA of the USA evaluation team noted the Eugene Field GO Club’s partnership with OSU-CHS has resulted in an “exceptionally high quality STEM experience for youth.”
“Dr. Kath Curtis and her graduate students have created a program that brings science to our students in a tangible way,” said Caitlin Turner, senior director of educational initiatives at the YMCA of Greater Tulsa. “They use microscopes, develop hypotheses, chart data and so much more. All of this happens in small groups, which is ideal for our program.”The YMCA Graduate Oklahoma program is a cohesive afterschool model to provide academics, physical education and enrichment programs to improve test scores, attendance, behavior and social and emotional skills for students at risk for dropping out of school.