Upstate News

March 29, 2007
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Syracuse fifth-graders and SUNY Upstate medical students end three months of scientific discovery with April 3 Science fair

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The culmination of three months of scientific discovery fostered by a partnership between medical students at SUNY Upstate Medical University and fifth-grade students at Dr. King Magnet School occurs April 3, when the doctors of tomorrow and their youthful charges present a science fair for their parents and school administrators.

The science fair will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Dr. King Magnet School, 416 E. Raynor St., Syracuse.

“This has been a wonderful experience for these children,” said fifth-grade teacher Amy Vargason. “The medical students have energized the study of science and excited my students about scientific discovery.”

More than 30 SUNY Upstate medical students began meeting with fifth-graders at the Dr. King Magnet School this January. Gathering in groups of two or three, the students decided on what science project to pursue, and not surprisingly, health and medicine were frequent topics.

“We’ve been discussing a whole range of health issues, such as the effects of caffeine on the body, how exercise influences one’s heart rate and the sense of smell and taste,” said Syracuse native Asalim Thabet, a SUNY Upstate medical student who serves as co-coordinator of the science partnership. Thabet graduated from Henninger High School in 2001.

Medical students met weekly with their elementary school protégés to work on their projects. For example, members of small group assessing the impact of exercise on one’s heart rate, would take turns jogging in place or doing pushups and then monitor their heart rate.

“We were hoping to show students how relevant science is to everyday life, and encourage them to have an appreciation of science, perhaps one that would even lead to a career in science or medicine,” said Thabet, who recalls her first scientific experience as a similar one, in elementary school.

In addition to learning about science, teachers at Dr. King Magnet School said the diverse cultural backgrounds of medical students helped to show elementary school students that science can be appealing to all different types of people. “I think studying science alongside someone who is studying to be a doctor is a very positive experience for these children,” Vargason said.

Susan B. Stearns, Ph.D., associate professor of cell and molecular biology, who serves as director of student outreach for SUNY Upstate, says the experience not only benefits the elementary school students, but the medical students, too. “The ability to be a mentor and influence a young child’s education is an extremely rewarding and powerful experience for our students,” she said.

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