UConn Health  Graduate Students Volunteer at Elementary School Science Fair

Seventeen UConn Health graduate students served as volunteer judges at West Hartford's Morley Elementary School Science Fair on April 18, 2018. (Photo by Brittany Knight)
Seventeen UConn Health graduate students served as volunteer judges at West Hartford’s Morley Elementary School Science Fair on April 18, 2018. (Photo by Brittany Knight)

Biomedical sciences graduate students from UConn Health volunteered their time recently to support a local elementary school science fair.

More than 50 young scientists presented their projects at the 5th annual Science Fair at Edward W. Morley Elementary School in West Hartford. The fledgling scientists ranged from kindergarten to 5th grade.

The science fair is organized by the Morley Elementary School STEM committee. Dr. Stephen Crocker, associate professor of neuroscience, who is a parent of two students at the school, helped organize this year’s event. Seeking volunteer assistance, Crocker reached out to graduate student Robert Pijewski, president of the Graduate Student Organization, who recruited 17 graduate students across many of the school’s programs.

The volunteer judges gathered and discussed the diverse research projects presented by the youngsters. The children’s enthusiasm was noteworthy as they explained their projects on such topics as what type of music, classical or pop, could increase the growth of plants; whether individuals demonstrate that they are more right- or left-brained; or how optical illusions are perceived. And for the first time, a “low sensory” room was set aside for children who had a preference for a less distracting environment to present their projects.

Graduate student Cara Hardy from the neuroscience program, who is working in the UConn Center on Aging,  was impressed with the students.”To have had the opportunity to engage with local young children scientifically is absolutely a privilege,” said Hardy.  “Little kids ask such great questions! Here we had a chance to not only hear about the sorts of topics that interest them, but also encourage their excitement about the scientific process. It was an amazing feeling to see future scientists (and their families) so invested while clearly still having fun doing it.”

Ryan Cleary, the principal of Morley Elementary expressed his gratitude to the UConn Health graduate students.”It was an amazing event!  The feedback has been extremely positive.  There was a ton of work that went into this so please know how much I appreciated your efforts.”

To say the least, our graduate students were inspired by the creativity of all the young scientists, their enthusiasm for scientific discovery, and look forward to next year for the chance to help out again!