JOHN DAVIES: Wowing kids with wonders of science

2013-09-08T00:00:00Z JOHN DAVIES: Wowing kids with wonders of scienceBy John Davies nwitimes.com
September 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

What happens when first- and second-graders encounter cow eyeballs, pig hearts and granite rocks?

The outcome is similar to when you tap into the natural enthusiasm of elementary students about technology.

George Douglas, general manager of Indiana Beverage Inc., made this discovery when teaching a Junior Achievement class. “They got excited because they could see themselves coming up with the next big idea like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.”

But enthusiasm among youngsters everywhere can be a universal untapped natural resource. That is, if we can find the way to unlock their imaginations! One example is the “IvySci” program that wowed youngsters from McKinley Elementary School in East Chicago.

Nearly 60 youngsters took part in a “Scientist for a Day” program at Ivy Tech Northwest's Foundations of East Chicago De La Garza Campus. And as countless teachers and volunteers have discovered, youngsters have a natural enthusiasm they unfortunately seem to lose as they get older!

O’Merrial Butchee, director of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center at Ivy Tech Northwest, organized this initiative for the past three years. She said: “These youngsters stepped into the role of scientists from the moment they put on their white jackets and goggles.”

She credited Ivy Tech instructors Laura Rosillo, M.D., and Carlos Hernandez, M.D., with launching this project several years ago to introduce kids to science. For the first time, this was sponsored by the Foundations of East Chicago. It’s a comprehensive initiative. The program with McKinley students was in May, and the program for high school students was in June, on health careers.

Instead of freaking out at having to look at a cow’s eyeball or dissect a pig’s heart, these McKinley kids soaked up five hours of science with an enthusiasm that is needed in an innovation culture among all ages. The success of this program is thanks to the support of volunteers and the Ivy Tech campus in East Chicago.

Add that these young scientists learned how granite was formed, and then they created their own “granite pal” miniatures helped by Julie Rizzo. She’s a Fellow in The Society of Innovators who launched an initiative to recycle granite. Julie’s latest creation is to re-purpose granite that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

So how do we inspire the next generation about innovation? As O’Merrial said, we need to show youngsters things beyond their imagination and the wonders of discovery in a larger world.

John Davies is managing director of the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana, which is part of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center of Ivy Tech Northwest. The opinions are the writer's.

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