Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tomorrow's Scientists

When I was a kid, my parent's took/sent me to all sorts of science camps and fairs.  I still have clear memories of many of them, in particular the marine biology camp I went to in North Carolina where we dissected day old fish from the market.  Didn't smell great in the un-air conditioned lab we were working in.

Having been so inspired by these camps as a kid, I jump at the chance to volunteer at any sort of event where kids (particularly girls) get a chance to learn about science.  If they get a chance to do hands-on activities, all the better.  

Over the past year, I have helped host visitors from PA Junior Scientists and Upward Bound in the anthropology department at Penn State, spent a (long!) day talking about science and doing mini-experiments in biology classes as State College High, and helped Girl Scouts earn science badges.  My favorite activities, though, were when Laurel and I showed students how to extract DNA using household chemicals. They end up with a snot-looking mass of DNA that they can take home.  We've done that project with Penn State science camps for high school and middle school girls and everybody loves it.  We even taught it to a group of middle school science teachers so hopefully it is spreading through central PA.

Primate Skulls are fun!!
Last weekend, I was invited by a co-worker to help out at the Girl's Inc Rock-It into Science event here in San Antonio.  We had stations about nutrition, lab work (mostly pipetting), and I worked at the skeleton exhibit.  I talked about how keratin makes up antlers, hair, fingernails, hooves, and the covering of turtle shells (so pretty much I told them about evolution by replacing "evolution" with "adaptation").  It was so much fun, the four hours flew by and I was still talking to people while others were packing up around me.  Unfortunately, being outside in south Texas for four hours meant that by the time I got home, I was exhausted and extra freckled!

Pipetting in a Parking Lot!

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