Fifth- and sixth-grade students from two New York City schools
filled laboratories at St. John’s with the excitement of learning
when the University held its first “Science is Fun” day at its Queens, NY,
Sponsored by the University’s Women in Science Scholarship
Program, the day’s activities brought 20 sixth-graders from the
Holy Family School in Queens and 40 fifth- and sixth-graders from
P.S. 306 in the Bronx to St. Albert Hall on May 21. Their teachers
joined them as St. John’s faculty and students in the sciences and
math offered hands-on activities that challenged them to see
science in new and unique ways.
day began when
Elise Megehee, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Inorganic
Chemistry, introduced the middle schoolers to St. John’s. Dr.
Megehee conducted demonstrations illustrating that “Chemistry is
Cool.” The students then proceeded to other laboratories and
classrooms, where they participated in a variety of science
activities created by St. John’s faculty and students. Students
also saw chemistry in action: assisted by St. John’s students, the
fifth- and sixth-graders froze flowers in liquid nitrogen, made
silly putty and experienced “oobleck’,” a “non-Newtonian” fluid
made of cornstarch and water; “oobleck” responds to force
differently from the way conventional fluids do.
Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Discover New York, and
Robin Wellington, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology,
presented a “Where in the World” demonstration. Using satellite
image prints from calendars, students were given slips of paper
with descriptions of places; clues to specific geographic features
in those places; and a little map showing them where in the United
States each image was located. Students then matched the
descriptions to the pictures.
Diane Hardej ’95G, ’ 03Ph.D., Assistant Professor of
Pharmaceutical Sciences, guided students through “Escape from Toxic
Island,”an educational program that began with a brief explanation
of toxicology (the study of poisons). Then the students
participated in a board game in which they answered questions
related to the discipline. The children learned what toxicology is
and how people are exposed to toxic substances in the home, the
environment and through poisonous plants and animals. As they
answer questions, the players moved along the game board until
“escaping” from Toxic Island.
The “Dancing Bones” exercises, led by
Joanne Carroll, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical
Sciences, explored the way our bodies achieve movement. She began
by having the students dance to the popular song “I Like to Move
It.” They learned about the physiology of movement through
demonstrations of skeletal anatomy, joints and muscle. They also
engaged in a discussion of the characteristics of bone, muscle and
The middle schoolers explored the connection of technology and
mathematics in the “Game On” laboratory. Guided by two professors
from Computer Science, Mathematics and Science— Joan DeBello
Christina Schweikert, Ph.D.—the students learned innovative
computer and math games and activities.
As a final activity as well as a delicious treat, the children
learned to make their own ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Each
student also received a small memento—a St. John’s folder and pen
to keep and record information and experiences obtained throughout
Students, teachers and St. John’s professors observed that the day
was a success for everyone—especially the middle school students.
Several expressed an interest in repeating and expanding the
program. “Science is Fun” plays an important role in helping
children to learn the many unique science, math and technology
opportunities available to them. The program also offered a venue
for them to explore the sciences beyond their own classrooms.
The University established its Women in Science Scholarship Program
in 1990 to provide a focus for outreach activities supporting women
entering the fields of science, mathematics and computer science.
The program also supports the awarding of Clare Boothe Luce
Undergraduate Scholarships, Doctoral Fellowships and