Pope Elementary students participate in DNA labSixth graders from Blanche Pope Elementary School (Waimanalo) visited Chaminade University on March 9 to experience the “I Am a Scientist” (IAS) program offered by the division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM). Chaminade has engaged students from DOE schools, charter schools and home school organizations in the IAS program since 2009. More than 10,000 school children have benefited 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. Though this was the 22nd time that Chaminade hosted a school group on campus, it was the first time for Pope Elementary.

Pope Elementary students participate in DNA lab

Donned in white lab coats and safety glasses, the 33 Waimanalo students conducted hands-on experiments focused on DNA and mutation utilizing cutting edge technology and equipment under the guidance of experienced scientists.  They engaged in three primary activities: 1) performed an experiment to visualize DNA by extracting their own DNA; 2) performed and experimented to learn about the DNA code; 3) and learned the consequences of mutation. They investigated heredity traits of their parents and compared them to their own traits. They also created a DNA poster of themselves titled “Inherited Traits vs Learned Traits.”

IAS director and NSM research associate Lori Shimoda led the activities assisted by Chaminade students and faculty. Over the years, she and her team have found the program rewarding.  For Shimoda, seeing the awe, even the joy on students’ faces as they made their discoveries confirmed that science must be experienced to become personally meaningful.