SARASOTA, Fla. (Oct. 27, 2016) Hundreds of students from Booker Middle School learned about laboratory instruments, the difference between plant and animal cells and what a tarantula looks like nose-to-nose at a science fair Wednesday that included several exhibits from USF Sarasota-Manatee.
The students, including a group of fifth graders from Bay Haven School of Basics Plus, crowded around several tables in Booker’s gymnasium. Among other things, they examined a model of a DNA strand and a collection of preserved animal specimens, from insects to a starfish to a tarantula.
Staff and students from USFSM’s biology program – Moe Maung, Amelia Knowlton, Belen Garcia and Victoria Ramirez – fielded questions while discussing the exhibits. The youngsters also took turns using pipettes, lab instruments that pick up tiny quantities of liquid. In this case, they transferred drops of colored water to a small plastic container.
For more than six hours, the teens and pre-teens circulated amongst the various tables staffed by USFSM, Mote Marine Laboratory, Save Our Seabirds, Suncoast Technical College and other organizations. The annual event, called Science is for Everyone Day, gave the USFSM students an opportunity to mingle with younger versions of themselves.
“I think these events are important because they make science interesting to kids, so a kid who maybe never thought about science before might start to think about it now,” said Ramirez, a USFSM senior who also works as a laboratory instructional support specialist. “The kids here are quite bright.”
Besides using pipettes and examining insects, the students checked out a dissected crawfish and frog and inspected a fruit bat, squid and dragonfly preserved in jars and plastic bags for close-up study.
“It was very hands-on,” Ramirez said.
Also in attendance was Andrew Telatovich, director of admissions and financial aid at USFSM. Telatovich talked to the students about the campus’ programs and dual-enrollment classes offered at some high schools.
“It was a great experience seeing the students faces light up when they got to our table,” Telatovich said. “They seemed to enjoy practicing with the pipette tool, and there were so many that were fascinated with the preserved animals. Hopefully, we sparked some interest in biology that will lead to some of them becoming scientists or doctors.”
To learn more about USFSM’s College of Science & Mathematics, visit usfsm.edu/csm.