Biology Professor Roberta Cravo explains blood types to a group of middle school students during a session at Collin College’s District Science Day. The event is part of continuing efforts to get students involved in science at a young age.
BOOOOM!!!! A red-orange flame exploded from the hydrogen-and-oxygen-filled party balloon, sending pieces of rubber flying and eliciting nervous giggles and appreciative wows from the crowd.
The volatile demonstration was the finale of this year’s District Science Day, held Saturday, April 11 at the Spring Creek Campus.
Don’t worry. Everyone near the blast was wearing goggles. And everyone in the room was wearing a smile, which was exactly the reaction organizer Cathy Donald-Whitney was looking for.
“The real point of today is to get students excited about science earlier in life, in middle school,” said Donald-Whitney, professor of biology.
Students had spent the preceding two hours working their way through scientific workshop sessions including the radio-tracking of zoo elephants, demonstrations of thermal dynamics in oceans, Organopoly, a hands-on Anatomy & Physiology lesson and a primer for crime scene investigation, including blood-typing and fingerprinting. The students performed activities tied to the subject in each session, hopefully sparking their imaginations and interests in science.
Starting in 1998, District Science Day grew out of an outreach partnership between the Collin College math and science departments and Bowman Middle School in Plano. Since then, the program has expanded to include Otto Middle School and Wilson Middle School, also in Plano.
Each school can send 10 students a year, a parent/guardian is required to attend with each student registered and siblings can attend. The goal is to create an educational family affair. That way, students receive immediate positive reinforcement from the reactions of their parents and siblings to these displays of scientific discovery.
In fact, sometimes the parents are the ones leading the students to Science Day. Donald-Whitney said organizers send out information about the program early so that parents who understand the importance of science and math can join the college’s faculty in promoting the subjects to children at an early age.
It can be a delicate balance, because while the organizers want as many people as possible to come, they have to limit the number so that everyone gets enough individual attention.
“That way, it can be more hands-on and interactive,” Donald-Whitney said. “When the groups get too large, it can be hard to do that.”
Jennifer Dudley, a seventh-grade science teacher at Bowman, said 19 of her students signed up in hopes of attending, She said that was a big improvement from the previous year.
“I came last year and loved it, so I talked it up to my kids this year,” Dudley said. “It gets them interested in science. It shows them all the different fields they could go into.”
Collin College Science Day Presenters: Math – Professors Bill Ardis, Shellene Foster and Daryl Rupp, “Where’s Conga?: Tracking Elephants using Mathematics”; A&P- Biology-Professors Mary Weis & Doug Boliver, “Operation Organopoly”; Biology – Professors Vijaya Velamakanni & Roberta Cravo, “C.S.I.- Cool Scientific Investigation”; Geology – Professors Brett and Shannon Burkett, “Red Vs. Blue: How Density Moves Our Oceans”; Chemistry Finale – Professors Cathy Molina and Jeff Ludovico; Ice cream, Chemistry Dessert – Professor Fred Jury.
More photos of the event are available at http://www.collin.edu/webgalleries/scienceday2015/ .