Science Hall hosts lab day for children

Michael Schreiber

Science Hall reached out to the community by hosting Science Lab Day Saturday, Feb. 28. The event allowed children ages 10 to 13 to come to Lawrence and experience science while working with Lawrence students and faculty.
Children who participated in the event were greeted with a set of introductory lectures by Lawrence faculty members. The lectures set the stage for the more hands-on portion spent in the lab.
Lawrence geology fellow Chad Lane, Associate Professor of Anthropology Mark Jenike and Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Rebecca Doyle-Morin each gave one of the introductory lectures.
Students then rotated through the Science Lab Day stations, spending some time doing activities in geology, anthropology and biology.
Jenike said the anthropology activity allowed students to explore “the relationship between heart rate and physical activity.” During this activity, the participating children learned about different ways of measuring energy expenditure. The children graphed their heart rates after performing timed stair-stepping.
The biology activity that involved Doyle-Morin had students examine the thickness of leaves in relation to insect herbivory. “The kids measured the force an insect would need to puncture a leaf using an instrument called a penetrometer,” Doyle-Morin said. “We also talked about differences between aquatic and terrestrial herbivores.”
The geology experiment, introduced by Lane, involved pollen studies from lake core samples.
Following the activities, the children reconvened for a brief question-and-answer session with the Lawrence faculty.
Both Doyle-Morin and Jenike said that the question-and-answer session was the best part of Science Lab Day. In fact, Doyle-Morin said her only regret was that there was not more time for questions, because “the students took time to warm up” and some of their questions did could not be addressed.
Jenike highlighted the “problem-solving on the fly” and “great student response” that came out during the question period.
Doyle-Morin relished “that the kids seemed really excited.” She also enjoyed the opportunity for the children to learn about “careers in science from real scientists, the scientists’ backgrounds and what inspires them.”
Doyle-Morin and Jenike agreed that Science Lab Day was a great success. They attributed the success largely to the efforts of Cindy Duckert, who coordinated the event, and the members of Biology Club, who led children through the activities.
Biology Club member Brent Nathan said his task was to “organize the Biology Club effort. Biology Club demonstrated and supervised the experiments as well as chaperoned the kids from room to room.”
Like Doyle-Morin and Jenike, Nathan pointed to Duckert as the main force behind Science Lab Day. “Cindy does a ton for the event. She reserves rooms, arranges for professors to speak and researches experiments as well as perfects the procedures,” Nathan said.
According to Doyle-Morin and Jenike, around 50 children attended the event, with more females participating than in past years.
“The enthusiasm the students showed, the curiosity, the willingness to propose hypotheses – we get them to think experimentally and scientifically in the four hours they were here,” Jenike said.
Jenike summed up the Science Lab Day event, describing it as “the opportunity for students to have hands-on experience with the scientific method in a college setting, demystifying the scientific enterprise. It’s important that children see science isn’t unapproachable, done only by smart, lab-coated people somewhere.