June 21, 2010

Field trip brings fifth-graders to science teachers’ labs at JHU

Kai Loon Chen of DoGEE performs a demonstration for visiting students from City Springs Elementary School in East Baltimore. Photo: Will Kirk/Homewoodphoto.jhu.edu

Since October, two DoGEE faculty members have visited City Springs Elementary School in East Baltimore on a monthly basis, leading hourlong science sessions in which they unravel basic science principles, such as water tension and electricity, through simple and lively experiments and demonstrations.

On June 8, 60 of the fifth-grade students visited Homewood campus labs as part of the ongoing Whiting School of Engineering outreach effort to generate interest in the sciences, especially among minority groups. In Ames and Krieger halls, faculty from the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering conducted demonstrations, such as how clay particles coagulate in a water solution after a chemical is added, a process used on a large scale in drinking-water treatment plants.

The students, who broke off into two groups, were also given a tour of the Homewood campus by Undergraduate Admissions staff.

The field trip was part of the City Springs Science Outreach Program, started by Edward Bouwer, chair and Abel Wolman Professor of Environmental Engineering; Kai Loon Chen, an assistant professor; and Christine Kavanagh, a Johns Hopkins community relations coordinator for East Baltimore.

Bouwer said that students are not exposed to such topics in their regular school curriculum until grades 7 and 8 due, in part, to faculty commitments in other areas.

“We are trying to spark an interest in science education with these relatively simple topics, and inject some fun into the school day,” he said. “It’s part of a larger effort to build the future pool of scientists and engineers.”

Bouwer dubbed the program’s inaugural year a success, and plans are to continue the program next school term with City Springs’ new fifth-grade class.              —Greg Rienzi