Pupils get look at hidden world

YOUNGSTOWN -- "Wow," exclaimed Jordan Trowers as he peered through the eyepiece of the microscope sitting on the table before him.
The lens was focused on just a piece of paper, but what the 6-year-old kindergartner at Youngstown Community School, 50 Essex St., saw impressed him.
"It looks like you can see the outside and the inside," he said.
Jordan was one of more than 300 pupils at the school getting a chance to do some scientific exploration as part of a two-day visit by the Carnegie Science Center of Pittsburgh.
"This is the first time they've ever used microscopes," said fifth-grade teacher Elaine Poklemba as she moved to help some of the children adjust to using only one eye to peer into the eyepiece.
Poklemba and fourth-grade teacher Rhoda Dutton put together a science education proposal that won a 1,000 educational grant from the Dominion Foundation.
The application targeted fourth- and fifth-graders for some experience in the scientific method and the investigative process in a project called "Hidden Monsters -- A Bacterial Study of the School Environment," Poklemba said.
It involved the pupils' swabbing different surfaces in the school, essentially everything the children touch during the school day, and developing cultures of bacteria recovered from those swabs to be examined under a microscope, she said.
What grant bought
The grant was large enough to buy materials and a computer microscope that has the capability to project images on a screen and make photographic prints of what it sees, said Poklemba.
It also financed a two-day visit Thursday and today by a "Science on the Road" team from the nonprofit science center.
That visit got all the children in kindergarten through the sixth grade involved in the project as the Carnegie team brought a roomful of microscopes and experiments designed specifically for each grade level.
The team does about five microscope labs a year, but that's only one of the programs offered, said Marilyn Fitzsimmons, a member of the Carnegie team visiting YCS.
There's also a portable planetarium program and a host of others, all offered over a five-state area -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Maryland, she said.
First- and second-graders a got to make their own water lenses (sort of a magnifying glass using drops of water to make objects look larger) that they got to take home and a chance to examine brine shrimp (more commonly called sea monkeys) under a microscope.
Older pupils got a chance to do some more advanced microbiology work studying various organisms and examining the bacteria grown from swabs of hand railings, door handles and even library books.
Parental volunteers were invited into the classroom for the day to help the children with their experiments.

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