Science can seem daunting to anybody. Esoteric concepts. Complex formulas. Terminology that seems impossible to understand.
But on Wednesday, for 18 fourth and fifth graders from Putnam City Schools, science was as easy as spitting in a tube.
The students spent the day in OMRF laboratories as part of the foundation’s 33rd annual Putnam City Junior Scientist Days. The event is OMRF’s way of thanking a school district whose students, teachers and parents have raised nearly $3 million for cancer research over the past three-plus decades.
“Cancer touches the lives of almost every young person, whether it’s through a family member, a friend or a teacher,” said Putnam City Schools Superintendent Paul Hurst. “This partnership not only empowers our students to do something to help stop this disease, but it opens their eyes to a world where they might one day lead those efforts.”
At OMRF, the students dissected a mouse, examined blood vessels from tumors and isolated their own DNA.
“I loved it,” said 11-year-old Cullen Peters, a student at Lake Park Elementary. “When I get a job, I think this is what I want to do.”
“Students are trained to learn quickly. It’s what they do all day,” said OMRF scientist Jane Yaciuk, Ph.D. “They’re young enough that they don’t know how complex some of these ideas are, so they’re willing to work to understand.”
The students came from each elementary school in the Putnam City district. Last year those schools, along with the district’s middle and high schools, raised more than $90,000 for cancer research at OMRF. The funds came from events ranging from carnivals to bake sales and volleyball marathons.
“These students work extremely hard to make headway against a deadly disease,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “This day is our way of letting them know how much we appreciate them and to give them a glimpse of the research their generosity helps make possible.”
Perhaps, said Prescott, the experience might even spur a career in cancer research for some of the would-be scientists. “You never know what will light the spark in a young mind. But we’re trying to provide as much kindling as possible.”