USC hosts science challenge, rally for young students
A rally for K-12 students participating in this yearsâ QuikSCience Challenge, held on campus Thursday, motivated and informed attendees, organizers said.
âThe purpose of the rally was for the students who have signed up for the QuikSCience Challenge to have an opportunity to come to USC and get excited about participating and to get ideas for their project,â said Lynn Whitley, the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studiesâ director of education and co-director of the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence-West.
Twenty-two USC graduate and undergraduate students mentor the younger students participating in the challenge, either through visits or talking on the phone or Skype, Whitley said.
âAll of these kids had a good idea of the kinds of issues that are out there. Our role is to nurture that and help push them in the right direction â in terms of lesson plans or how to communicate with the general public about their issue,â said Jason Vo, a doctoral student studying biological sciences. âWe really nurture what was already there.â
Teams of up to six students create projects on a scientific subject related to marine or freshwater environment. They choose an environmental issue and propose ideas for scientific students and creative solutions, then organize a community service project and create a lesson plan to teach their peers, all related to their scientific subject. High school teams also write a research proposal.
The volunteers also benefit from helping the students because the relationship develops their communication skills and because the younger students are enthusiastic, said Erica Seubert, a doctoral student studying biological sciences.
âYou tend to go into it thinking that youâre doing this for them, but then you realize how rewarding it is to see some get as excited about science as you are,â Seubert said. âA lot of times itâs these ideas youâd never think of because you donât think as wildly as a child does, so you end up learning a lot from them.â
Some of the mentor volunteers will also judge the projects when they are submitted in February, and gave the younger students tours of the labs at USC.
During the first part of the QuikSCience âSOS Rally â Surfing Onto Science,â the K-12 students rotated in four groups touring the exhibits, USC labs, campus and Natural History Museum. Several speakers spoke to the students about their organizations as potential ideas for their project.
Several organizations had booths at the event, including the Aquarium of the Pacific, Heal the Bay, the Surfrider Foundation and COSEE, in addition to USC College Admissions, Whitley said.
âWe had nice exhibits last year, and we had even more this year. We also had more interactive exhibits,â she said. âThe students could hold and touch objects and organisms, and look at them through a microscope.â
Last year, more than 100 of the 300 participating students attended the rally. Coordinators said that space and funding resources cap the available space at 100 attendees but that the slots filled up more quickly this year, so they had to start a waiting list.
âI hope that it will help foster a new generation of scientists. A lot of times when youâre a young student, math and science can be a difficult subject. It helps to get some exposure to some of the things that you can do if you continue down those avenues,â Vo said. âWhen students come to campus and see what we do, then it encourages them to follow that path.â