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Enrich a student.

Alijah Griffin. who always thought he wanted to be a doctor or maybe a lawyer, is now thinking about being a scientist.

Jenni Hemacinski's eyes light up as she describes the day she spent learning about parasites.

At Calvin Coolidge Middle School in Peoria, Illinois, students are getting a unique look at the world of science, now that the school has been adopted by ARS' National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research NCAUR).

The Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with Peoria Public School District 150, sponsors an Adopt-a-school program. The purpose is to use the expertise of the business community to enrich and improve the education of public school students in Peoria.

"The emphasis here is on the sharing of human resources," says Billie Block, Chamber of Commerce coordinator of the program. "We also believe that the program will help the community gain a better understanding of the public school system."

The center became interested through the Midwest Area Equal Employment Opportunity committee.

"I was aware of the Adopt-a-school program from reading about it in the newspaper," explains Susan P. McCormick, a scientist in the Mycotoxin Research Unit and now the program's coordinator, "but it was Darwin Murrell, ARS Midwest Area director, who decided that NCAUR should become involved."

The center was matched with Calvin Coolidge Middle School and officially adopted the school in October 1990. When the new school year began last August, ARS scientists were ready to once again adopt the youngsters.

"We think that middle school students are ideal for our program," McCormick says. "They're at an a,e when science can really make an impression."

Science teachers at the school and McCormick plan activities for the school year. After studying the school's science textbooks. McCormick matches researchers with the classroom studies.

Scientists visit the school throughout the year to give presentations and demonstrations about everything from microscopes to superslurper, a starchbased product developed at NCAUR.

At the end of the 1990-91 school year, a dozen of the school's fifth through eighth grade students spent a day at the center. Paired with a mentor, the students conducted their own research or assisted with a project. The same type of program highlights the 1991-92 school year.

We select the students who are the most enthusiastic about science, the ones we think will benefit the most from an experience that allows them to see how science applies to the world," explains science teacher Susan Grzanich.

Twelve-year-old Jenni Hermacinski has always liked her science classes, but she hadn't given much thought to a career in science.

"Going to the lab made me think about what I want to be when I row up." she said. "Learning about parasites was interesting."

The Adopt-a-school program, especially the trip to NCAUR, has changed Griffin's feelings about science. He recalls visits from scientists who talked about plants, soil. and cooking oil.

"I really liked going to the lab to see what goes on there," he says.

The laboratory visit was as much a treat for the scientists as it was the children, say mentors Subhash C. Gupta and Timothy D. Leathers.

"I get a lot of satisfaction telling the students about our work," says Gupta. "I really enjoy having the kids here and teaching them a little about science. Gupta and Leathers are researching biological control of insects through the use of fungi.

Spending a day telling a student about our work, in terms they can understand, helps put our work in perspective," says Leathers. "I think we wind up understanding it better ourselves."
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Title Annotation:Adopt-a-School program
Author:Gerrietts, Marcie
Publication:Agricultural Research
Date:Apr 1, 1992
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