Science Education…on a Bus!
Most schools in America do not have the latest in laboratory equipment. It is just too costly. But the state of Maryland and a non-profit group found a way to make such equipment available during some parts of the school year. As Steve Ember tells us, they put it on a bus!
The 13-meter-long Maryland BioLab is a mobile classroom filled with equipment that lets students explore many kinds of science. It travels around the state visiting schools. Today, the bus has stopped at Patapsco High School and Center for Arts in the city of Baltimore. Science teacher Leah Warble is very pleased that her students could perform an experiment using real chemicals.
“And today the chemistry students were able to do an acid-based hydration, which just means they neutralize an acid with a base. So normally, they would do it through simulations on the computer. And now is able to allow them to do it in real life, actual time and actually apply it to something that we use in real life — which is biodiesel.”
Scientist Angel Mangus led the mobile laboratory on the day VOA visited.
“There are two TVs, so there’s one down this end and there is one down that end. If you get lost at any point in time on your paper or what I am saying and you can’t see me, I have a camera…”
Ms. Mangus says the equipment lets students explore many different kinds of scientific interests.
“We have anything from biology to forensic science. So we have a blood lab where they try and go ahead and test if any of our evidence samples have blood on it. We also have DNA analysis lab where they try and test to see who did a specific crime. And we also have chemistry.”
The mobile lab has been bringing bioscience education to schools around Maryland for more than ten years.
“It’s really nice to get them in here with hands-on activities. They get really excited and they want to be engaged.”
Ms. Mangus talks to the students about how she became a scientist.
“At the end of each class, if we have enough time, we like to take five or ten minutes, talk about us, ourselves. Tell them how we got into science, maybe where we went to school, what we did, the different kinds of things that we could do.”
She says many students finish their experiments and leave the bus excited about the possibility of becoming a scientist.
The Maryland BioScience Foundation supports the BioLab program. Brian Gaines is the chief executive officer of the foundation. He says the organization’s goal is to help create the next generation of scientists.
“One of the reasons that we do this, this program is to talk about careers in science — not just science, but science, technology, engineering and math.”
Mr. Gaines says students on the bus get real-life experience they do not get in a classroom.
“The equipment that the students are using on the mobile lab, they don’t have in schools. So our instructors are actually scientists, they work alongside the teachers. So they bring that science experience from the laboratory into the schools and they teach students how to use actually the newest techniques that we have in science.”
That made a difference to 15-year-old Seda Sinan, who is interested in biology.
“It, like gave me, like, more materials to work with than I had at school. It’s more, like, interactive.”
Her classmate Shenara Jefferson agrees.
“Well, it really showed me how just a little bit of difference can really impact, like, your product when you’re doing something in there. Like, I only added just a little bit of the solution and it completely affected my entire thing.”
Back in the school classroom, Leah Warble’s students continue working on the results of their experiments on the bus.
“It does help me do my job.”
Ms. Warble says children usually do not know what they are interested in until they get real-life experience with a subject.
“Well, the excitement of feeling like a real scientist — I mean, even just a change in the, in the, what they were wearing, wearing goggles and, and blue gloves versus white gloves made them feel more television scientists, if you will. To, to handle that kind of situation makes them feel like more responsible for the work because they are now intrigued in, in doing it and they feel respected and responsible since we gave them those opportunities.”
Science education on a bus!! it´s an amazing idea to encourage young students to develop professionaly in the science world. Definitely, using creativity, it can be more efficient in education field. This is a great idea to apply around the world!! In my opinion, there are many young people looking for a purpose in life and this kind of experience could be decisive in the moment of make a decision about their professional future.