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STEM Catches on at National Science Festival

Students extract DNA from strawberries

Thousands of school-age children who visited the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Biotechnology Education booth at the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo got to try their hands at extracting DNA from strawberries, treating yellow fever and comparing DNA sequences to determine which animals are related to one another. (photo gallery)

The Center for Biotechnology Education participated in the third biennial USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo, held this year in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.  The three-day event, 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 organizations.

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth; Department of Biology; Department of Biophysics; and Applied Physics Laboratory also showcased at the festival.

Thousands of children stopped by the Johns Hopkins’ exhibits, which were mostly clustered in the Natural Sciences Pavilion.

At the Center for Biotechnology Education booth, instructors led students through a computer simulation where they had to make critical decisions about how to treat patients with yellow fever.

Instructors also 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.

Perhaps the biggest hit for students was the opportunity to extract DNA from strawberries. Using basic household products such as soap, water and rubbing alcohol, instructors led the students through the activity while explaining the role DNA plays in our bodies.

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.

CATEGORY: Academics, K-12 Outreach