The microscope hovers over a small dish. It’s attached to a laptop, so students don’t need to press their faces against a microscope eyepiece. On the screen is a zebrafish egg. On hand to answer questions are scientists. The questions, however, are a little different from the ones they get from colleagues.
“One of the questions I got was how does gravity work, and I was like, ‘Oh that’s a great question,” says Hirotaka Ata, M.D., Ph.D., one of the volunteer scientists. “I talked about how everything has a little bit of a pull, but the bigger it is, the stronger the pull. I don’t know what they took away from it because they’re second graders, but I figured they know about the planets and things like that.”
The second graders in question were taking part in a lesson on the zebrafish life cycle. And, no, in second grade, it’s not a huge leap from fish to gravity. The lesson is part of the Integrated Science Education Outreach program started as a collaboration between Mayo Clinic, Winona State University ― Rochester and Rochester Public Schools. It brings experiential science lessons and scientists to the classroom with the goal of making science fun and interactive so in the future, there are more scientists and more scientists from diverse backgrounds.
“We need more scientists from underrepresented populations because the complexity of the problems hitting us as a community require more minds, ideas and perspectives,” says Chris Pierret, Ph.D., a scientist at Mayo who coordinates the program. “Trying to find new voices in science isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the only possible solution.”
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