IUPUI center serves up science lesson with students’ lunch

392504_w296INDIANAPOLIS — Food, with a helping of science, is being offered this week to youngsters at an Indianapolis school.

The initiative pairs the Southeast Neighborhood School of Excellence charter school, known as SENSE, and the Center for Earth and Environmental Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

The school, 1601 Barth Ave., is where children go for free breakfasts and lunches through Summer Servings, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program. Once they’ve finished lunch, a Center for Earth and Environmental Science education coordinator and two interns will lead students in a two-hour-a-day scientific exploration of Pleasant Run Creek, which runs nearby through the heart of the SENSE community where the children live. The programming is part of what Kate Voss, outreach coordinator at SENSE, is calling Ecocamp.

The Center for Earth and Environmental Science will equip the children with technology and knowledge to judge by the end of the week the quality of water flowing in the stream and make recommendations for further improving the stream ecosystem.

The center was established by the Department of Earth Sciences in the School of Science at IUPUI in 1997. Among its research and educational outreach programs, the center operates Discovering the Science of the Environment, an inquiry-based and interactive science education program for Central Indiana third- through ninth-graders and education professionals. Thanks to the generosity of Dow AgroSciences, CEES is able to offer this summer science programming.

SENSE is the third Indianapolis school the Center for Earth and Environmental Science has worked with this summer, said Pam Martin, center director and an associate  professor in the School of Science and School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. “We are providing outdoor science education to go along with the healthy meals provided by the Summer Servings program and school staff.

“It’s a bonus for everyone involved,” Martin said. “The science we provide gives parents another reason to bring kids for a meal and gives us the opportunity to give these kids a little science they might not otherwise get.”

While coordinated programming efforts and effective campaigns by groups such as the Indy Hunger Network have increased participation, Summer Servings participation is still low. According to a summer nutrition report, only 18 percent of qualifying children participated in July 2013. At the same time, Indiana needs to build its future workforce in science, technology, engineering and math fields and that begins with taking – and maintaining – an interest in science.

The summer Discovering the Science of Environment program is primarily about enthusiasm for science and developing a good experience with it, Martin said. “We want kids to have the experience of discovery; that is what science is all about. And while they are developing an appreciation for science, they are also developing an appreciation for the environment.”

Beginning today,  youngsters will learn about watersheds and investigate their own watershed using Google Earth satellite imagery. They will also play a water cycle board game to learn about how water changes states as it cycles through their watershed. On Tuesday, they will learn about energy flow through a food chain and investigate the biodiversity of the land along Pleasant Run. Children will then assess the stream’s physical parameters on Wednesday to determine overall stream stability and health. The stream’s discharge will be calculated as well.

A chemical assessment of water quality will be conducted Thursday, including measurements of dissolved oxygen levels, cloudiness, iron, chlorine and nitrate concentration. The week concludes with the collection of water bugs and a calculation of a pollution tolerance index.

The program at SENSE is “bringing the science home” by connecting it to everyday life, said Elizabeth Johnson, education outreach coordinator at the Center for Earth and Environmental Science, who will lead the children in the watershed exploration. “Anytime you can connect education to something familiar, it is easier to grasp.”

Johnson will be assisted by two IUPUI interns: Kenzie Whitener, a psychology major who is focusing on child psychology with the aim of working with children with behavioral problems; and Doaris Medina, an elementary education major.

Editor’s note: Reporters who would like to visit the school while students are engaged in science exploration may do so. The children will begin their science exploration about noon each day and stop at 2 p.m. Please contact Diane Brown at 317-274-2195.

Herron exhibit provides intimate look at child-led households created by AIDS pandemic

“Hope Seekers: Survival of Southern African Child-Led Households in the Shadow of HIV”
February 5 – February 22, 2014
Marsh Gallery, Eskenazi Hall, 735 W. Michigan St.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic in Swaziland is creating an epidemic of its own — an exploding number of households in the South African kingdom that are headed by children, some as young as eight or nine.

Swaziland has the world’s highest rate of HIV/AIDS cases, with one in four people infected by the virus. The adult AIDS death rate results in a new orphan every 14 seconds – creating the phenomenon of child-led families.

Herron School of Art and Design on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus this month is hosting an exhibit of photographs exploring the lives of children in these families.

“It tells the stories of these children and really allows people to enter into an experience of gaining more of an intimate look at the child-led households in South Africa,” said Cynthia Prime, CEO of Saving Orphans through Healthcare and Outreach (SOHO), the Indianapolis-based non-profit organization taking a leading role in efforts to help educate, nurture and feed the child-led families.

Special activities associated with the exhibit include:

  • A panel discussion, followed by a book signing and reception at 6 p.m. on Feb. 12 in Basile Auditorium, Eskenazi Hall.
  • An unveiling of a life-size prototype of sustainable, safe and secure housing designed by IUPUI engineering and technology students for orphans in Swaziland, followed by presentations by students from Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School, 6 p.m., Feb. 18, Eskenazi Hall.

“This exhibition represents great collaboration across IUPUI’s many schools and programs. We are excited about the momentum we’ve built working in partnership with SOHO, as we increase IUPUI’s connections with Indianapolis, Swaziland, and the world,” said Jane Luzar, dean of the IUPUI Honors College.

In addition to photographs taken by Josef Kissinger, the exhibit includes artifacts created by Swaziland children.

The artifacts include a large toy vehicle, called a Kombi, built out of wire, soft drink cans, and bottle caps; and a floor mat made from garbage bags and candy wrappers. “These articles show that these children have promise and creativity,” Prime said. “They are called hope seekers because if they had options, they could change the world they live in.”