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Neighborhood Students Sample Science

Tammy Morrish, a postdoc in Molecular Biology and Genetics, helps fifth-graders extract DNA from bananas on Basic Science Day. (Photo: Rich Riggins)
In the lab, students mushed up bananas with salt mixed in dish soap, sprinkled on meat tenderizer, layered on rubbing alcohol and watched as white, thready stuff appeared. The threads were actual strands of DNA, visible to the naked eye. “I’m going to do this to arachnids!” one boy exclaimed.

It was wild, it was fun, it was Science Day, the annual program on the East Baltimore campus that introduces youngsters to the world of science that’s humming along in the dozens upon dozens of labs located right in their own backyards.

On two separate days this spring, basic science and oncology investigators opened their labs to fourth- and fifth-graders from Fort Worthington and Dr. Bernard Harris elementary schools in East Baltimore.

On each day, about 100 students rotated through labs and worked on experiments. Over lunch, they took part in discussions with faculty and staff. In the afternoon, they watched presentations, like professor Jeremy Nathans’ ever-popular slide show on optical illusions.

To date, nearly 1,000 youngsters from various East Baltimore elementary schools have participated in Science Day. “Science Day shows these students what it means to stay in school, do well and have a career in science,” says Rhoda Alani, the associate professor of oncology who launched the program in the PCTB labs six years ago and added a second day in the Cancer Research Building two years ago.

This year, as ever, Basic Science Day and Oncology Science Day featured hands-on experiments like measuring heart rates and finger printing. Next year Margaret Strong, the senior research technician in Molecular Biology and Genetics who is the new leader of the program, hopes to add a science fair.

“Science Day shows students that science can be cool,” says Alani. “We hear over and over again that this is the best field trip they take all year long.”

—Anne Bennett Swingle



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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