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home : education : schools May 24, 2016

4/16/2013 1:39:00 PM
Students experience science careers
Sisters students got a hands-on education at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. photo provided
+ click to enlarge
Sisters students got a hands-on education at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. photo provided

By John Griffith

It was a trip that may well shape the lives of 11 Sisters High School students.

In March, the freshmen and sophomores spent four days conducting actual experimental work at the world-renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle. They also toured the Pacific Science Center and some other Seattle landmarks. The trip was sponsored and funded by the Sisters Science Club.

Last Thursday, the students gave a highly animated, emotional and enthusiastic feedback presentation to the Sisters Science Club, parents, and other interested parties. The presentation consisted of a round-robin sharing of impressions, favorite experiences, and impressions by all 11 students: Cassandra Arruda, Emily Ausman, Bethany Bachmeier, Cammi Benson, Tara Greaney, Collette Kokesh-Carhart, Shea Krevi, Ben Larson, Elizabeth Larson, Nila Lukens and Jackson Morgan.

The students reported getting to work in an actual research lab, doing real experiments with state-of-the-art research equipment in experiments led by working scientists.

They spoke of mico-pipettes, and centrifuges; micro-capillary electrophoresis and extracting the DNA from their own check samples. One student showed off a sample of Sisters High School biology teacher and trip leader Rima Givot's DNA.

The students did blood workups, and used an electron microscope to look at a fly.

"Sort of hairy, but interesting," one student noted.

The students' enthusiasm for their visit, their hosts, and all they learned was consistent and infectious. School board chair Don Hedrick said, "Working on the school board we do a lot of stuff with money and other issues, but coming to things like this where students are participating makes it all worthwhile."

Comments that included "amazing," " inspiring," and "unbelievable" were peppered throughout the students description of their visit. A comment made by Kokesh-Carhart seemed to sum up the sentiments of the student-scientists: "This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I could feel my brain growing, and I got to bond with my peers in a way that is hard to do in a normal school's environment."

The students spoke of getting a broader view of what part science played in their life and their education. They expressed an increased interest in taking more science classes, and felt that they would have a deeper and better understanding of the science classes that they were currently taking.

Several students that were considering careers in a scientific field noted that they would quickly run out of available science classes at Sisters High School. This was a concern for them.

Givot said, "The goal was to open your world." She then asked the group if they felt this was a good trip for freshmen and sophomores, or if they thought it should be open to or reserved for juniors and seniors who would have more science classes under their belt. Uniformly the students expressed their feeling that keeping the trip a freshman-sophomore trip made more sense.

They felt that if they took the trip later in their high school career, it would leave little chance to act on their new-found enthusiasm for science in their course selection.

Givot and the Sisters Science Club promoted and organized the trip on the Sisters end. Dr. Beverly J. Torok-Storb, associate head of the Transplantation Biology Program, did the on-site organization of the trip and the experimental work in her own lab at the Seattle end.

Barbara Schultz, a Sisters Science Club board member and a retired Seattle biology teacher now living at Black Butte Ranch, was instrumental in making the contacts and designing the education side of the experimental work for the kids' visit. She was also a chaperone for the trip.

Schultz is credited with founding the Science Education Partnership in 1991; the program pairs middle and high school science teachers with working scientists for a two-week training program. She was also one of the designers and promoters of the "18 and under" research lab at FHCRC.

Researchers Julio Vasquez and Arno worked directly with the students in conducting the experiments. They also shared the results of some of their research work that includes using stem cells to help cure blindness.

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