170 Local Students Visit Dartmouth for Science Day 2014
What do brains, a motion-controlled nanocopter, ice-nucleating bacteria, and the carbon cycle all have in common? Each of these was a central component of an activity at the second annual Science Day at Dartmouth coordinated by Graduate Women in Science and Engineering (GWISE) on April 5. Over the course of five hours, students and their parents navigated a science “open house,” consisting of 19 activities in 9 departments across campus. Overall, about 170 students participated, mostly ranging in age from 10-14.
Graduate students from various programs designed and executed the individual science activities, and GWISE leaders Anna Prescott, a third-year psychological and brain sciences (PBS) graduate student, and Kiah Sanders, a fifth-year microbiology and immunology graduate student, coordinated the overall event.
Participation this year at Science Day increased 60-70% from last year, much of which was likely due to a broader marketing campaign leading up to the event. As for the event itself, “We had great feedback from parents and kids,” said Prescott. Graduate student volunteers also enjoyed the event. Prescott noted, “When I asked them how it went, most responded with examples of how excited or absorbed the kids were in the activities.” This sentiment was echoed by fourth-year microbiology and immunology graduate student and Science Day volunteer, Gary Huessler: “My favorite thing was the kids’ enthusiasm. I had an 8-year-old girl at my station tell me with a beaming smile that she was ‘super excited to see all the science!’ That alone made it worthwhile!”
According to Prescott, “I think grad students are ideally suited for STEM outreach to kids
because we’re still young enough that they might not see us as ‘grown-ups’ quite yet.” She continued, “What makes this event unique is that it takes place on campus, in the buildings and labs where real scientists do their research every day. It’s easier for a child to imagine what a career in science looks like if they’ve seen it first-hand, and the more clearly they can imagine such a career the more likely they are to imagine themselves doing something similar one day.”
According to Sanders, “GWISE will most assuredly hold Science Day next year!” This should be welcome news for one of the third-grade participants from Hanover, who was briefly interrupted while extracting DNA from strawberries. When asked if she thinks she wants to be a scientist someday, she answered, without hesitation, “Definitely!”
by Jeanine Amacher