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UM BioPark, Club UMB Give STEM Education a Boost

Kindling a child's curiosity and attraction to science is the goal of several programs supported by the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). Routinely, students in the University's seven schools take on mentoring roles, devoting volunteer hours on a science project with a title such as "mousetrap vehicle." In other instances, faculty members and their professional peers collaborate to open up labs for learning or to aid teachers.

The University of Maryland BioPark has held events that promote education in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. An example is the BioBoot Camp held June 19 for science teachers from schools in Baltimore City and in Baltimore, Prince George's, and Montgomery counties.

"What this does," said teacher Anupama Sekhsaria, of Poolesville High School in Montgomery County, "is bring the forefront of research to us teachers so that we can take it to the classroom and explain it to our students."

She was referring to a demonstration at BioBoot Camp in which a micro array is used to convey concepts in genomics. That demonstration was performed by Linda Yaswen-Corkery, PhD, senior technology licensing officer at UMB; and by Michelle Giglio, PhD, assistant professor at the School of Medicine and associate director for analysis at the Informatics Resource Center of the School's Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS). IGS is a BioPark tenant.



A key player in hands-on science projects is CLUB UMB, an after-school program conducted by the President's Outreach Council at several public schools that are in partnerships with the University. CLUB UMB recruits mentors from the UMB community and sponsors their engagement with the youngsters during activities that include fitness and nutrition awareness.

Sometimes the outreach efforts are intertwined. That was so during May and June, when BioPark tenants staged their second annual BioBlast Open House, a day of activities for middle school students. Subsequently one of the participating students was presented with prizes to encourage his interest in science.

The recipient was a 12-year-old who has been active in CLUB UMB at Southwest Baltimore Charter School (SWBC). Ishmael Dah of Baltimore is shown in the photo above in the lobby of SWBC on June 12 with Lisa Rawlings, MBA, director, BioWorkforce Initiatives at the UM BioPark, left; and Brian Sturdivant, MSW, director, Strategic Initiatives and Community Partnerships at UMB.

Ishmael is the winner of a first-place medal, shown in the photo below, in the Baltimore City regional tournament of the 2013 Science Olympiad, competing with children in Grades 6-9. Along with SWBC classmate Hosea Addison, Ishmael won first in the "rotor egg drop" contest, assisted by mentors Alexandria Collis and Rachael Troct, who are students at the School of Medicine (SOM).

The CLUB UMB team advanced to the state level on the strength of its showing at the regional tournament, which was held on March 2 at Morgan State University. All the students from SWBC who competed won awards in their respective categories.

CLUB UMB's entry in the "crime busters" category fared best, with SWBC students Dijaih Hill and Martaeja Baskerville winning second-place medals at the regional level and third-place at state, in a tournament held in April. They were assisted by mentor Juliana Wu, a SOM student.

In "shock value" and in "rocks and minerals," student C.J. Lee won second-place medals in each category with the help of mentors Nick Masters and Kimbery White, both of the SOM. In "boomilever," students Jake Lamason and Warner Brockman won third with the help of SOM mentors Joseph Heartstein and Ian Harrold.

In the one category at the regional level in which the SWBC entrant could not be present, Ishmael stepped in to operate the "mousetrap vehicle" with the help of mentor Chin Hsiang Feng, a SOM student.

Ishmael was among the children attending the BioBlast event who were encouraged to write an essay about why they like science. His submission was rewarded with an e-reader and with a scholarship to a weeklong summer enrichment camp.

These were made possible by a grant from Cristata Cares, a Baltimore-based charitable organization, whose officials, Jonathan Bradley and Joy Nanda, DSc, MS, MHS, MBA, came to SWBC for the presentation, pictured from left below with Ishmael, SWBC's principal, Jaime Stone, and executive director, Erika Brockman, LCSW-C.

Ishmael's mother, Timek Dah, is an engineer who said the family eagerly enrolled him in a camp at the Maryland Science Center for children ages 11-13. The topic: "How Things are Made." "There were only a few slots left," she said. Ishmael, when asked about how he got interested in science, said it happened during fifth grade at SWBC. "That's when I started to hear about science and I was getting curious and wanting to explore the world."

Dah award presentation at SWBC Dah holds
medal

For all the children given the opportunity to attend the BioBlast Open House on May 3, the whole point was "getting curious" and cultivating the urge to explore. Students from UMB partner schools SWBC, Booker T. Washington Middle School, and James McHenry Elementary/Middle School were joined by their mentors for the day, high school age students at the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy, a total of more than 100 students.

All were enticed with experiments such as "Glorious Gases" and "Crunchy Munchy Confidential." Activities took place in labs at the Life Sciences Institute (LSI) of Baltimore City Community College, and elsewhere in the UM BioPark building at 801 W. Baltimore St.

Giglio of IGS was involved in hands-on science in this event as well, as was Charles "Colin" Brinkman, postdoctoral fellow at the SOM's Center for Vascular and Inflammatory Disease; Jole Gibson, coordinator at UMB's University Recreation and Fitness; Sue Kinsey, MS, of Gliknik, Inc.; Paul Price, PhD, of Paragon Bioservices; and John Powers, PhD, of Baltimore BioWorks -- all tenants of the UM BioPark. Lending a hand from LSI were Kathleen Norris, PhD; Richard Danforth, MPH; and Amrita Madabushi, PhD, who is shown in the photo below interacting with a youngster.

BioBlast

Also participating were representatives of scientific enterprises in the region who wanted to help with STEM education. They included Jean-Claude Marshall, PhD, of the Center for Translational Research, a part of Catholic Health Initiatives in Towson; and Jennifer Singelyn, PhD, of Becton, Dickinson & Co., in Sparks.

Posting Date: 07/11/2013
Contact Name: Patricia Fanning
Contact Phone: 410-706-7946
Contact Email: pfanning@umaryland.edu