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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Science made more accessible through outreach at Biosphere 2

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    Cutting-edge research, inspired mentors and mentees can all be found at the Biosphere 2, which is home to the Biosphere 2 Haury Outreach Scholars program. This program aims to give young students experience in practicing the scientific process.

    The program mentors are UA undergraduate and graduate students in the scientific community who help middle school and high school students with different projects, said Kevin Bonine, the director of education and outreach at the Biosphere 2. The mentors were trained in teaching, research content, leadership development and collaboration.

    “We had a week of 40 middle-school students living at Biosphere 2 and a week of 40 high school students [as a part of the Biosphere 2 Summer Science Academy],” Bonine said.
    The program is unique because they get to do hands-on research and are extremely involved with the Biosphere 2 science staff, Bonine said.

    “The students pick a biome in the biosphere, such as the rainforest, the soil, the mandrake marsh or the ocean,” said Teal Brechtel, a graduate student in molecular and cellular biology.

    They were then prompted to ask questions about that area  and investigate the questions, Brechtel said. The students put together graphs and learned how to present  their findings. Brechtel said this process is essentially what scientists do over and over as they accumulate facts about the world.

    “There is this misconception that a lot of people have about science that it is a collection of facts,” Brechtel said. “But in reality we don’t know very much at all, and science is really about the process of asking questions and analyzing data and interpreting data more than learning facts.”

    The important part for the students in the program is that they develop the mental framework of how people really do science, Brechtel said.

    Students that came to the Summer Science Academy were from Mexico, Canada and about 14 different states in the U.S., Bonine said.

    “This program is great for the kids, and it is also great for undergraduates and graduates for communicating science,” Brechtel said.

    The UA has been managing Biosphere 2 since 2007 with a two-fold mission, Bonine said. Aside from the cutting-edge research about different ecosystems and how they function, Bonine said the goal is to make sure the community is educated.

    “People think that scientists are really nerdy and geeky and sit in a lab all day, but in reality anyone can do science,” Brechtel said. “You don’t have to be some kind of genius. You just have to have patience and perseverance and critical thinking skills and love problem solving.”

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