BAR HARBOR — Over the past two weeks, fourth-grade students from all of the elementary schools in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System have gotten a taste of what it’s like to be a scientist.
They visited the MDI Biological Laboratory, where they learned about the research being done there and got some hands-on experience.
“Even if kids don’t want to be scientists when they grow up, it’s really important to be informed about why science is important,” said Elisabeth Marnik, a postdoctoral researcher at the laboratory who designed and led the program for fourth graders.
“We’re hoping it will not only give the kids a science experience but also connect back to what they’re learning in the classrooms,” she said. “They have been really excited about it; I think it has really gone over well.”
Marnik had the students do several hands-on activities in the training laboratory at MDIBL’s new Maine Center for Biomedical Innovation. One activity was designed to help students understand how researchers sometimes use animal models, such as mice or zebrafish, to gain insights into human biology. Using powerful microscopes, the students could “compare the embryonic development between various organisms and see how similar or different they are,” Marnik said.
“It shows them that even though zebrafish and (roundworms) are very different from humans, they still have similarities we can study to learn more about human health.”
Crystal DaGraca, the principal at Swans Island Elementary who also teaches grades 3-5, accompanied her fourth-grade students to MDIBL on Tuesday, when students from Tremont Consolidated School also were there.
“This is so important,” DaGraca said of the opportunity for students to meet scientists, learn about what they do and get a little hands-on experience. “The kids can realize they can be anything they want to be. We are so fortunate to have this right in our backyard.”