They say a child’s mind is like a sponge, always ready to absorb information.
On Tuesday, OMRF helped 18 inquisitive elementary school students soak up a wealth of knowledge when it opened its doors for the first of two Putnam City Junior Scientist Days.
For 37 years, OMRF has provided students from Putnam City Schools with access to laboratories to learn about research from real scientists. It’s a way for the foundation to say ‘thank you’ to the teachers, students and parents of Putnam City who have raised more than $3.3 million for cancer research at OMRF.
Students who participate in the program are chosen by teachers as those who show the most interest and promise in science.
“We love having the kids here because they’re full of questions,” said OMRF scientist Dean Dawson, Ph.D. “They just love each little discovery, and it’s special to see when that light goes on and you see that they really get it.”
Outfitted in oversized lab coats, gloves and safety goggles, students experienced a little bit of everything from viewing baby fish in the cellular stage, learning how to pipette, separating protein molecules and more.
“I got to learn about DNA by squishing up strawberries and separating the DNA with ethanol to make it rise to the top,” said Central Elementary fifth grader Luis Lopez. “It was so cool to see. Science is interesting in class, but getting to do this was a lot of fun. I think it would be fun to be a scientist and work in a lab.”
Funds raised through bake sales, talent shows, soccer tournaments and 5K runs have purchased specialized equipment for OMRF laboratories. The money also funded the creation of the Putnam City Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research, held by OMRF scientist Linda Thompson, Ph.D.
“I could talk all day about how Junior Scientist Day benefits our students,” said Putnam City superintendent Dr. Fred Rhodes. “It’s a passport to a world they’ve probably never seen. They partner with some of the top scientists and researchers not just in Oklahoma, but in the world. Their interest in science education and science careers is stimulated. Some go on to become scientists, researchers and doctors themselves. It’s a tremendously rewarding experience.”
Few traditions generate the excitement around OMRF quite like Junior Scientist Days, stoking the fire of young minds and reinvigorating the scientists who do research on a daily basis.
“Seeing the students so excited about science is absolutely wonderful, and watching them interact with our scientists is truly the icing on the cake,” said OMRF senior development associate Allison Parker. “OMRF’s relationship with Putnam City Schools is special and one we will always cherish.”