Encouraging Hawaii keiki to pursue science and mathematics as a college and career path is the goal of “I Am A Scientist,” a Chaminade University mobile outreach program. Now in its eighth year, the program recently achieved a notable milestone.

"I Am A Scientist" outreach programMore than 10,000 school children have benefitted from the program, which makes science entertaining yet educational through hands-on projects for different grade levels. At last count, the program tallied over 300 classroom visits, 21 visits to Chaminade teaching laboratories, 19 community events and more than 4,300 volunteer hours.

“This represents a lot of effort and devotion by a lot of people who have given so much of themselves to make this program successful,” says Lori Shimoda, a research associate with the university’s Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM) division. “Chaminade scientists care not only for the students on our campus, but also those who have yet to even think about college.”

Founded by Shimoda in 2009, “I Am A Scientist” is funded through NSM using grants from Air Force Research Laboratories and the G.N. Wilcox Foundation. Chaminade faculty, researchers, staff and students volunteer their time to visit schools across Oahu.

"I Am A Scientist" outreach program“We bring real scientists and college students studying science into the classroom so the kids get to meet us and learn from us,” Shimoda explains. “We share our education and career pathways so they can understand where they are in their education-career journey.”

Presentations involve hypothesis-driven experiments that employ biotechnology techniques and modern laboratory equipment transported from Chaminade, such as microscopes, lab coats and petri dishes. The curriculum is aligned with Hawaii Department of Educationstandards, thus making it relevant for teachers and students.

One of the popular presentations is “Germs on Me,” an experiment that shows how an infection – like a cold or the flu – can spread rapidly through a classroom. Students are given tubes filled with a clear liquid and asked to share it among their classmates. Then one student is given a tube containing a non-toxic base component. After the sharing is complete, the “infected” tubes turn pink.

"I Am A Scientist" outreach programAnother presentation is “Gene Genius,” which involves collection of the students’ own DNA. From this activity, students learn about the genetic code and the future of genomics in medicine and forensic science.

“I’m thankful for the support and encouragement of Dr. Helen Turner – our Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics – and to our faculty and staff who juggle their daily responsibilities to help at our events,” Shimoda says. “And a special thanks to our Chaminade students who take time out of their day to attend our teaching events.”

See the “I Am A Scientist” segment on Living808

“I Am A Scientist” is a funded mobile outreach program under Chaminade’s Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. In collaboration with university faculty, staff and students, this initiative supports science awareness and education in Hawaii public schools.