Science is gross AND awesome! July 5, 2011Posted by Connie Chow in Clubs, Gender differences?, girls in science.
Tags: anatomy, zebrafish
“Can we take the eyeball out?” may not be something you would expect to hear from a 2nd grade girl. [Thank you for screaming, “Gender-stereotyped statement!!”]. Of course you should expect girls to say that.
And indeed several girls begged to do just that after we dissected a salmon fish head, to look at its gills as a way to better understand how fish breathe. During the dissection, Isabel said with great conviction to Winsome, who was a bit hesitant, that “Science is gross AND awesome! That’s why I love it!”!
Being a follower of Robert Tai’s research on how the development of an interest in science starts young, and had highlighted his article, named, aptly, Eyeballs in the Fridge, I let their curiosity guide them. At which point Madison exclaimed, “This is the BEST day of my life!” How’s that for creating interest and indelible memories around science at a young age!
The dissection was our addition to the BioEYES project, a brilliant K-12 outreach program developed by Dr. Steve Farber and Dr. Jaimie Shuda that introduces students to zebrafish embryonic development and biology. The BioEYES staff kindly shared curricula, which we adapted, and used in part of our 4-day vacation week program, held at the end of June.
It takes a village to raise a bunch of zebrafish embryos and scientists-in-embryo, so we were also fortunate to have MGH’s Dr. Randy Peterson generously share fish, embryos and equipment, and the Simmons College Biology Department loan us the microscopes, both of which were essential to make the project a success.
The girls welcomed Lindsay Cade, lab manager in the Peterson lab, who came to answer their questions about zebrafish, which ranged from habitat (where do they live), to anatomy (do they have eyelids), to physiology (do they sleep), to population biology (how many zebrafish are there in the world)?
For many girls, it was their first time observing live specimens with a microscope. I dare say their sense of wonder increased by at least two orders of magnitude. One of them said, “I can do this all day”, and another asked, “Do you think I can ask for a microscope for Christmas?”
Here’s a video of the beating heart of a hatched fry, which can be observed by day 4, taken by one of the participants!
Many thanks to Dr. Wilma Wasco from MGH and Dr. Eleanor Farrington from the Naval Academy for facilitating the session. We’re grateful to Lasell College and Myrtle Baptist Church for hosting, and Cubist Pharmaceuticals and the Mass Life Sciences Center for generous financial support, so we can offer the program free of charge.