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   from the issue of July 20, 2006

Museum program introduces area youth to campus research


For five days in June, doors to campus research projects opened to 12 Omaha and Lincoln middle school students.

SCIENCE EXPLORERS - (From left) Rowena Conrow, an eighth grader from Kings Science Middle School in Omaha, and Tanner Pleines, a...
 SCIENCE EXPLORERS - (From left) Rowena Conrow, an eighth grader from Kings Science Middle School in Omaha, and Tanner Pleines, a sixth grader from Park Middle School in Lincoln, learn about entomology from research associate professor Mary Liz Jameson.

Taking part in "Explore Science in Creatures Small and Large," a workshop sponsored by the University of Nebraska State Museum (June 12-16) the teens earned hands on experience in vertebrate paleontology, geosciences, biosciences and entomology.

"These were all underserved kids coming from either Park Middle School here in Lincoln or the Girls Inc. program in Omaha," said Kathy French, education coordinator for the museum and facilitator of the workshop. "We were able to get them involved with research projects on campus. Each of the kids left with a positive experience, and every one of them wanted to come back for another next week."

Lessons were structured around the workbook, "Virus and the Whale: Exploring Evolution in Creatures Small and Large." The workbook was developed for the Explore Evolution exhibition in Morrill Hall and six other museums nationwide. French said the workshop was aimed at measuring how teens learn about evolution.

On the first day, the students explored the vertebrate paleontology lab in Nebraska Hall with paleontologist Bruce Bailey. They followed with a second day visit to examine core samples and scientific equipment with Karl Baumgarten, instrumentation supervisor for geosciences.

The students also learned how crickets select mates - and how such data is collected - in the Wagner Cricket Lab in Manter Hall. And, they closed out campus lab visits by discussing insects with Mary Liz Jameson, research associate professor in entomology.

Prior to each lab visit, students read about and discussed a related portion of the Explore Evolution exhibition. Following the lab visit, each lesson was reinforced with a specialized workbook activity - one which included making a fly caller out of paper to mimic the mating calls of Hawaiian Drosophila flies.

At the start of the week, French said each student was tested about evolution. Follow-up tests were given to gauge if the effect of the lessons, lab visits and activities.

"For the first three days, we did not allow the kids to see the Explore Evolution exhibit," French said. "Then, on Thursday and Friday we turned them loose on it. It was great seeing them understand that these were the concepts they were studying about."

French said the program was funded through grants from Explore Evolution. A long-term goal is to establish Explore Science or a related program as an annual museum offering.

"What is great about this is we were able to get these kids into the museum and realize we have all this cool stuff here and on campus," French said. "For five days, they became a part of campus life and earned a behind-the-scenes look at campus research efforts."



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