October 2011

Fostering diversity in science and public science literacy

The Teaching Teams initiative also gives high school students a chance to interact with experts in scientific fields who are young, bright, engaging and enthusiastic about science.

Lowenstein teaching kits 

At Research Bootcamp, Derecka Travis, left, plates bacteria on petri dishes that contain the antibiotic ampicillin with Ph.D. student Zac Cusumano and another Young Scientist Program participant, Kenneth Stockard.

In 2010, thanks to financial support from the Leon Lowenstein Foundation, teaching kits were developed to expand YSP's reach. The stand-alone kits, some based on teaching team demos, can be checked out freely by St. Louis teachers.

Each kit focuses on a specific topic. It contains protocols, supplies and equipment for classes to perform experiments; an instructional video with background material on the topic; handouts and teaching points; and materials for evaluation and assessment of what was learned.

To date, teaching kits for DNA extraction from fruit, surface tension and generation of a citrus battery have been created. YSP is working with a community organization, the Youth Learning Center, as well as St. Louis public school science teachers to get feedback to improve the kits. Graduate and medical students at other institutions can now take advantage of online teaching team demos and teacher kits. (Access the online resources at http://ysp.wustl.edu/).

Both participants and organizers agree that YSP is a proven and flexible model for a volunteer-based approach to improve science understanding and inspire future generations of science professionals, especially among underrepresented groups.

“Summer Focus was one of the best things I have been a part of in my life,” Rankin emphasizes. “Completing the program and, most importantly, walking away with a deeper passion for science was amazing. One day, I want to give a similar experience to young adults so they can explore their strengths and develop career goals. I want them to have that same life-changing experience that will make them strong and effective leaders.”

The Young Scientist Program is supported by grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Leon Lowenstein Foundation, Pfizer Inc. and Midwest Scientific. The Washington University Medical Center generously supports YSP through its alumni association, the Medical Scientist Training Program and the Medical School Office of Diversity Programs.


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