CSUN students encourages love of science in local middle school and high school students

Juana Esquivel

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Vista Middle School students Bao Diep, 11, and Mason Whittlesey, 13, construct roller coasters in one of several of the workshops available to middle and high school students during the Noyce Scholars Earth Day event on Saturday, April 9. Photo Credit: Tessie Navarro / Staff Photographer

CSUN’s future math and science teachers are reaching out to low-income schools in the community.

Noyce Scholars, students with scholarships to teach math or science, are working to encourage middle and high school students to not just pursue a university education, but to also learn about science and math. The award is named after Robert Noyce, the “Mayor of Silicon Valley” and inventor of the integrated chip.

Geology, chemistry and biology Noyce scholars recently held workshops on campus in commemoration of Earth Day.

Dr. Gini Vandergon, associate professor in the biology department and organizer of the event, said an enthusiastic response from kids can make Noyce scholars more excited about teaching science and math.

“It’s good for my students to see how excited kids can be about science, so they are more interested in teaching,” Vandergon said.

About 280 students from nine middle schools and high schools participated in the Earth Day event, Vandergon said.

Melissa Dietz, 23, biology major and Noyce Scholar, said it is crucial to instill an appreciation of science in students at an early age.

“Right now, especially with middle schools, is the time that (we) really need to influence and try to make science creative, interesting and engaging,” she said.

Robin Sehler, geology major and Noyce scholar said the event is an opportunity for students to experience a university for the first time.

“All of the students who participated in the workshops are from Title-I schools, which are low-income and do not necessarily have the opportunity to go to a university,” Sehler said.

Earthquake models created out of shoe boxes, roller coasters generated from construction paper, pickles used as battery chargers, and DNA samples produced from licorice were just some of the projects carried out.

Dietz said she hoped the students see science as something that they might want to consider and not be discouraged.

Plant diversity and growth, making biodegradable plastic, measuring earthquakes and Easter egg genetics were some of the 11 workshops offered by the Noyce Scholars.

Sehler said the Noyce Scholars had to reach out to the community and ask for donations from retailers, like Payless ShoeSource, who provided the shoe boxes used to create the earthquake measurement models.

“Noyce Scholars are  focused on working with low-income schools and  contributing to working in our district,” Dietz said.

Eric Blinder, 28, biology major and Noyce Scholar, said it was nice to be able to offer the middle and high school students something academic to do on the weekend.

“It’s always nice to have the students see this material in a different setting other than their regular classroom,” Blinder said. “It’s a big deal for them (students) to come to a college campus.”

Some of the teenagers enjoyed spending their Saturday morning at CSUN.

“This is fun because at home you just sit and be lazy,” said Eduardo Cruz, 13, seventh-grader from Vista Middle School.

Fellow Vista Middle School attendee Alondra Chan, 12, seventh-grader and winner of the Most Creative Roller Coaster challenge said being at CSUN was “more fun than at home because there’s nothing to do at home.”

“It’s critical to find good teachers that are motivated and encouraging to be at those schools,” Dietz said.