Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
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OSU-CHS News > 2016

May 12, 2016

Biomedical graduate students transform third-graders into budding scientists

Todd Green, biomedical sciences graduate student, discusses a research poster on fingerprints with third-graders at Eugene Field Elementary School.Todd Green, biomedical sciences graduate student, discusses a research poster on fingerprints with third-graders at Eugene Field Elementary School.

Observing osmosis in gummi bears. Testing human reaction times. Identifying the most common fingerprint type. Determining the sudsiest soap.

These were among the research projects presented by 48 third-graders during the OSU-CHS Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student Association Science Fair at Eugene Field Elementary School last Wednesday.

“We rejected our hypothesis that Lever 2000 soap made the most foam,” one boy said, reading to a judge from the group’s research poster.

The judge, graduate student Amie Francis, then asked the children questions about the scientific process they used to make that determination. The exercise promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“This is easily one of the best programs we have,” said Christian Heck, graduate student and BSGSA member. “It is good to get out of the lab and work with these children. It requires a different type of communication skills.”

Each year, the BSGSA puts on a science fair for children at Eugene Field Elementary, the OSU-CHS Partners in Education school.

Kathleen Ahles, graduate student and vice president of the BSGSA, said the student organization is committed to getting children interested in science and scientific careers.

“Our outreach in elementary schools is integral to the BSGSA mission,” she said. “We want to show kids that science is fun and that it is possible for them to go to college and become scientists when they grow up.”

Research has shown that children who are exposed to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) at a young age perform better in science and math. Other studies reveal that quality STEM educational programs increase the likelihood that a child will graduate from high school and pursue a STEM career.

“It is so wonderful to see the kids get excited about science,” said graduate student Andrea Blair. “This gives us the opportunity to reinforce scientific principles that children can apply to everyday questions they may have about the world they live in.”

Last Wednesday, the excitement among the children was palpable as they presented their research findings to the judges and others interested in their projects. Graduate student participants were Sheri Core, Stephanie McGlothlin, Allie McDonald, and Lea Figueroa.

In addition to Francis, judges included Kath Curtis, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and BSGSA faculty sponsor, Randall L. Davis, Ph.D., director of the OSU-CHS biomedical sciences graduate program and associate professor of pharmacology and Gerwald Koehler, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology.

Each group of four third-graders was assigned a biomedical sciences graduate student to guide them in selecting an experiment, determining a hypothesis, following a scientific process to test the hypothesis and concluding whether the hypothesis was proven.

The yearly science fair can be used to encourage the children to join the Way Cool Science Club, a weekly after-school science group for Eugene Field fourth-graders. The club is run by OSU-CHS graduate students.

“The children surprise me every year at how enthusiastic and smart they are,” Heck said. “It confirms that we are making an impact.”

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