Children inspired to study science with the JASON project

Alex Lindgren-Gibson and Meg Schultz

Students from the Fox Valley region had the opportunity to come to Lawrence on Saturday, Jan. 26, and participate in science workshops led by Lawrence biology and geology majors and Dr. Bart DeStasio. Approximately thirty students participated in three different half-hour long workshops this year.

Over the past thirteen years, the Fox Valley area has taken advantage of the JASON program, a geographically broadening science program. Lawrence University has held the workshops on campus for the last five years, giving science majors an opportunity to connect with the youth of the community.

JASON is a program that connects fourth through ninth graders around the world with scientists exploring various regions of the globe. It was founded by Dr. Robert Ballard, the man who discovered the Titanic. After his discovery, he received countless letters from students around the world saying he had inspired them to study science.

Ballard created the JASON Project as a way to help 10-13 year olds explore science. The regional coordinator chooses a theme based on a current site that is most directly related to the location. According to regional JASON coordinator Cindy Duckert, “JASON sparks interest not only in the exotic locales, but in what is exotic locally.”

Each year participating students explore a different region. In past years, students have followed scientists exploring volcanoes in Hawaii and the rainforest in South America. This year’s theme is “Frozen Worlds.” Students follow, via the Internet, a team of scientists exploring and experimenting in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Subarctic regions.

A few lucky students are accepted to be “Argonauts.” The Argonauts visit research sites and get to do hands on experiments with the scientists working on the project. Other students participate through workshops like the one that took place on the Lawrence campus on Saturday.

The workshops were led by three to four Lawrence students. The subjects ranged from “Fur, Fat, and Feathers” to “Wolves” to “Glaciers.” The children were split into groups and they rotated through each half-hour long workshop. At the “Glacier” workshop, the students made gak and studied the way it forms in relation to glacial formations. At the end of the day, the students had a question and answer session with DeStasio to see what a real scientist had to say about “Frozen Worlds.”

Lawrence student Valeska Okragly, who has participated in JASON for two years, says she enjoys doing the workshops. “It’s kind of fun to see the little girls waving their arms out of their sockets and thinking, yeah, that was me.”