Bio sciences lab team brings science to life for elementary school students

photo of kids with microscope and computer

Cellebration_wSig_Web-653x394.jpgGreat work from cellular biology faculty and graduate students, awakening young minds with the wonder of science:

It's 8 o'clock on a Friday morning, but the room in Barrow Elementary School is full of energetic chatter.

Fifth-grader Nora Murthy, in particular, is really excited. She's about to examine protists and other microorganisms under a high-power microscope. She and her classmates also will see the damage caused to red blood cells by parasites that cause diseases like malaria and African sleeping sickness, and they'll swab their hands and the bottoms of their shoes, maybe even the inside of their noses, to grow bacteria they'll examine in a few days time. 

At the center of the excitement is Karl Lechtreck, an associate professor of cellular biology at UGA, accompanied by his team of three graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher. A self-described "Barrow Buddy," Lechtreck started bringing his lab to the school when his children were students there and keeps coming back to help the students mark the end of their unit on cellular systems. 

"I think that learning by doing is the best way to learn," Lechtreck said. "The teachers try hard to provide a good education and do a really good job with that. It's worth supporting, and UGA has so many possibilities to do just that."

Located on the edge of campus in Five Points, Barrow frequently partners with the university to bring exciting learning opportunities to its students, said Jan Mullins, a teacher in the school's gifted program. 

"Our community and our school have deep schisms in our population, having both students whose families live in poverty and those who live in affluence, so it is crucial that we provide extra enrichment and sparks to learning for them all," Mullins said. "UGA is a treasure trove for us and the community at large."

Indeed, Ms. Mullins. And Barrow Elementary is itself one of our community jewels, educating Athens school kids adjacent to UGA in a mutual informing and beneficial relationship. Dr. Lechtreck's Cell-a-Bration is inspired and speaks to the excitement of the children directly. A great example of a renowned researcher with an intuitive sense of teaching and service.

Image: Barrow Elementary fifth-graders watch cell movement while Aaron Harris, a UGA doctoral researcher in cellular biology, supervises. Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski