Paul Morris

Top scientists engage youngsters in Kids’ Tech University at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Paul Morris knows that Kids’ Tech University presented at Bowling Green State University has a lot going for it. Each of the four weeks features an esteemed scientist who knows how to talk to children age 9 to 12 about their research. And then the kids have carefully designed activities related to the science that allow students to do the work of science themselves. Then there’s Morris’ hair. He sports a frizzy mop of white hair. Morris said he’s gotten enough comments on it, he’s decided to stop cutting his hair. “I look the part.” It’s a silly way to get across a key element of the program. “The idea that children are being directed by a real scientist that’s part of the excitement we want to capture.” Registration is now underway for the program that runs four Saturdays throughout the semester starting Feb. 11 and continuing Feb. 25, March 18, and April 8. Each starts at 10 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m. or so. Registration is $90. Visit http://kidstechuniversity-bgsu.vbi.vt.edu/. The mission is to get children excited about science, technology, engineering and math before they get into middle school. The Feb. 11 session will feature Dr. Jennifer M. DeBruyn, who works at the Body Farm in Tennessee, a lab which studies decomposition of human bodies. DeBruyn is a microbiologist who studies how all manner of matter decomposes. Her talk is: “Life after Death: Exploring the decomposer organisms that recycle corpses back to soil.” In the afternoon, Morris said, students will do an array of experiments involved in forensics, including fingerprinting and DNA analysis with the assistance of BGSU faculty and students. “The strategy is to enable them to meet and interact with scientists who talk about what they do, and as a second component we give them a variety of hands-on activities that we run that are related to speaker’s talk.” Morris said he looks for activities “that I think the children would expect to do at a university.” That includes using lab equipment. “We do a lot of microscope work.” As far as the speakers are concerned, he has an easy measure of their effectiveness: “To what extent is the speaker interrupted with questions, and how long does the speaker section extend with questions? If no questions, it’s a failure.” When his BGSU colleague Peg Yacobucci talked about dinosaurs and climate change, the kids asked questions for 40 minutes. Only once, in the first year, has that been a problem. In the first year one speaker got…