Center for Biotechnology Showcases STEM Activities at National Festival
Dissecting owl pellets was the cool thing to do at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Biotechnology Education booth at the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo.
Thousands of school-age children attended parts of the three-day event, which was held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The festival, considered the largest science festival in the country, featured more than 3,000 hands-on activities presented by hundreds of universities and public and private organization. This event was the fourth biennial festival and was targeted to children and adults. The JHU Applied Physics Laboratory and the JHU Department of Biophysics also showcased at the festival.
Children who visited the Hopkins Biotech booth used tweezers to dissect sterilized owl pellets in a search for bones. Owls eat their prey and swallow their food whole and regurgitate what they can’t digest. By looking at the pellets, young scientists could determine which animals the owls ate.
Participants also did an activity during which they compared DNA sequences to determine which animals are related to one another. Instructors led children through an exercise called “Who’s Your Cousin?” Using a computer and stuffed animals, students grouped different stuffed animals together based on whether they thought they were genetically related.
Children also enjoyed using sponges to make designs on goldenrod paper. They submerged the sponges in a solution of baking soda and watched in wonder as the paper turned red, indicating a base. (Goldenrod paper is colored with a dye that turns red in a base and yellow in an acid.)
Outreach to K-12 students is an important part of the Center for Biotechnology’s role in the community, as faculty and staff strive to spark children’s early interest in science. In addition to K-12 outreach initiatives, the Center for Biotechnology Education offers classes through Advanced Academic Programs, a division of Johns Hopkins’ Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Part-time graduate degree programs are offered at the Montgomery County Campus.