JHU Center for Biotechnology Education Brings Hands-on Science to Homeschoolers
More than 13,000 families in Maryland educate their children at home. While statistics show that these children generally receive excellent educations and perform on par with their public or private school peers, they often miss out on special educational opportunities that schoolchildren are offered.
One local homeschool group, the LEAP Co-op, is acutely aware of this fact and is working hard to combat it. Most recently, a LEAP parent contacted the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus to see whether JHU faculty and staff could create a program similar to its popular Frontiers in Science and Medicine Day for 50 homeschoolers grades pre-K to seven. Representatives from the JHU Center for Biotechnology Education (JHU CBE) were happy to comply.
On Monday, February 6, three JHU CBE representatives along with two JHU Office of the Provost staff visited the LEAP Coop to show its students how much fun science can be.
After a brief primer on lab safety, the pre-k through 2nd grade students gathered around three tables where they learned about chemical reactions by making bouncy balls and learning how to make raisins dance. They also got a lesson on how well – or, in some cases, how poorly – they washed their hands.
As one student molded her mixture into a bouncy ball, she exclaimed, “When I grow up, I want to be a scientist.”
After the younger kids were done, the 3rd – 7th grade students got their opportunity to learn about chemical reactions by making silly putty; DNA by isolating their own DNA and creating necklaces from it, and practice their CSI skills with a "crime scene" blood typing exercise.
“Can we try more starch?” asked one student who was struggling with the texture of her silly putty. “Is that what makes it hard?”
“Sure,” answered Audrey Moshfeghian, JHU CBE Senior Lab Coordinator. “We’ll do an impromptu science experiment.”
The student added more starch to her bag. “Guys, it’s working!” she exclaimed as she continued stirring the ingredients. “Look! It’s working!”
Kim Baile, LEAP Director, said she couldn’t thank the JHU team enough for coming out and sharing their enthusiasm for science.
“The staff had a great rapport with the students, and the students really enjoyed learning from them,” Baile said. “I overheard one of the children say, ‘I had fun. I like science!’ after they left.”
"Being able to participate in these types of outreach events is my favorite part about my job,” Moshfeghian said. “The kids' enthusiasm for science and learning – even when they don't realize it – is contagious. I hope we've encouraged them to think science can be fun and even 'cool.'"