Annual Report 2010

WISE Ambassadors K-12

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Who says landfills can’t be fun? Especially when sweet treats are involved.

Five WISE Ambassadors, as part of the K-12 Outreach Committee, visited St. James School in Washington, Iowa, on Nov. 5, 2009. These University of Iowa students taught about 30 11- and 12-year-olds about the design and usage of landfills.

The WISE group members gave a presentation using basic pictures and a diagram, and then split the students up into two groups to construct landfill models out of icing, chocolate cereal, and pieces of candy.

The activity was messy, entertaining, and educational at the same time. The students found out about landfills, while the WISE Ambassadors learned how to communicate and lead effectively.

“I want to show (the students) that there can be strong women. The kids see strong women, but they’re all the teachers and nurses at their schools,” said Della Hofmeister, a sophomore civil engineering student at the UI and co-chair of the K-12 Outreach Committee.

“When the students get to the point in life where they have to make decisions about going to school, they can look back and remember those girls who came and were cool.”

Ambassadors Holly Johnson, Ashley Yoder, Melissa Schroeder, and Kelly Clarton accompanied Hofmeister on the Washington trip.

The K-12 Outreach Committee has the goal of bringing out awareness and exposing young girls, and boys for that matter, to the field of science.

WISE Ambassadors organized two other outreach efforts in the first semester.

On Oct. 13, Hofmeister and fellow WISE Ambassador Nirmalla Barros presented to two groups of middle school girls at the Open Doors, Open Minds Conference at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. They challenged the students to build a house out of playing cards that could hold miniature candy bars. The girls got to eat the candy bars that rested on the house.

Finally, on Dec. 3, a group of girls from West Branch Middle School visited the UI Hospitals and Clinics. Hofmeister and Dumayi Gutierrez, also co-chair of the K-12 Outreach Committee, toured the students around the medical museum, showing them an iron lung among other sites.

Hofmeister and Gutierrez then gave a presentation on types of bacteria and viruses, while explaining about neurons and how they work in the human brain.

“I enjoy helping out and teaching girls about small chemical reactions and bacteria,” said Gutierrez, a junior in biology and pre-medicine. “It feels great it excites them. I’m so happy science excites them. That’s what excites me.”

The WISE Ambassadors feel they are exposing the next group of college women to science and engineering through their K-12 outreach efforts.

“I don’t think it’s going to make an impact today, or tomorrow, but when I look back...” Hofmeister said.