Mon, May 21, 2018 02:14 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
UK outreach program makes science come alive

LEXINGTON — Don Frazier stands before a crowded classroom of rising ninth-graders, a tower of 25 plastic beakers, each capable of holding one liter of liquid, stacked on the desk in front of him.

“This is 25 liters,” he said. “Do you see how tall this is? Well, 180 liters, 180 of these beakers of water, go through your kidneys every day!”

Not a typical classroom situation, you might say? Such visual, innovative and engaging lessons in science have been a daily practice for a unique education program at the University of Kentucky.

This summer, 34 rising ninth-graders have completed the UK Chandler Medical Center and Outreach Center for Science and Health Career Opportunities Science Camp for Rural and Appalachian Middle Students (SCRAMS). Students were selected based on their academic achievement, recommendations and application essays.

The competitive program, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, provides each selected student the opportunity to gain appreciation for science and health, and through this experience, elevate his or her self-image and confidence. The pre-college initiative also has given students an early perspective on the college experience — students work and live on the UK campus during the course of the program, a two-week summer science camp.

Each student has attended classes focusing on organs and systems of the human body. In addition, students have participated in hands-on experiments, workshops, seminars, and evening activities in an interesting, stimulating atmosphere. Faculty members from various departments at UK offer the students seminars on different systems of the body, as well as specialized topics such as genetics, pediatrics, and animal research. Even students that don’t normally enjoy lectures and seminars during the school year are engaged during the program.

“I don’t usually remember lectures,” said Matthew Reed of Powell County. “But I do remember these. This is fun.”

Lectures and seminars are mixed with hands-on science experiments and demonstrations. One memorable lesson, taught by Frazier, focuses on how the kidneys remove drugs from the bloodstream. Armed with a bucket of water and a bit of food coloring, Frazier illustrates how drugs enter the system and how they are removed ever more slowly as the fluid we consume dilutes the drug/water mixture in our kidneys, and subsequently, what we expel through urination.

Hands-on science is taken very literally at the center; human brains and kidneys are available for the children to view and even hold.

“I held a brain,” said Reed. “It was awesome.”

Frazier, a professor emeritus of physiology and director of the Outreach Center at UK, passionately has nurtured a love of science in Kentucky’s children for years, through programs such as SCRAMS and many others. The community service activities of the center include “van trips” to schools across the Commonwealth, which bring science lessons to classes of various grade levels.

“Science should not only be extremely interesting, but also fun,” Frazier said. “It is important that we help create a population better prepared to make informed decisions about issues concerning health, the environment and Kentucky’s economic future.” To do this, we must motivate our students to include science-related courses in their educational curriculum.”

For more information on SCRAMS and other programs at the Outreach Center for Science and Health Career Opportunities, call (859) 257-6440 or visit http://outreach.gws.uky .edu/index.html.

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