Seventh-graders recently had their first Scientist of the Month visits. Teacher Kiki Contreras has organized this program for 7th grade science classes for several years, and it's easily made the transition to online learning. Even before the pandemic, Kiki arranged with scientists to join by Skype from all over the U.S. and farther afield, including McMurdo Station in Antarctica, Kibale National Park in Uganda and Australia.
Scientist of the Month aims to give students an opportunity to see themselves as future scientists, as well as to expose them to the wide range of what doing science can look like--what scientists study, how they study it, and who they are. Skills-wise, there is a focus on developing open-ended questions to ask that will foster interesting and ongoing conversation.
Each of the three classes received a visit from a different scientist ...
Dr. Cyrus Ghajar, a breast cancer resarcher at Fred Hutch, studies breast cancer metastases and tumor cell dormancy. Dr. Amy Stone, an immunologist from Touro University Nevada, studies the innate immune system and its response to viruses (including COVID-19). Dr. Dylan Wainwright, a biomechanist from Yale University, studies the interaction between the surfaces of marine organisms (like scales and skin) and their environment.
Here are some of the students' responses to: What was the most interesting thing you learned during the presentations?
"I thought it was really interesting that a scientist could see inside a mouse's brain [by implanting a window in its skull]. It's really cool that we can learn a lot about humans from injecting tumor cells into mice and seeing how they behave."
"I thought it was very interesting that 99.99% of pathogens are fought off by our innate immune system. WOW! "
"The most interesting thing I learned was that fish scales are different in every fish but scientists don't know why. "
"The most interesting thing I learned during Dr. Ghajar's visit was that his team made a discovery that CAR-T cells attack the tumor and once it has been killed they swarm around it."
"The most interesting thing that I learned is about the West Nile virus. I learned that us as humans can get the virus from mosquitoes but we can't give it back to another mosquito, but I learned that birds can."