Wednesday, May 12, 2010

MicroExplorers will be expanding to other Schools in the Madison Metro School District



UW-Madison Morgridge Center for Public Service supports family-based science program for K-8 students


Madison, WI, May 10, 2010—The Morgridge Center for Public Service recently announced a matching grant of $16,333 to the UW Department of Biochemistry to expand their science outreach programs in local schools.  The program will train UW Madison undergraduate and graduate students to teach hands on inquiry- based science to K-8 students.


The Morgridge Center match will help bring hands on science to young learners and their families through an innovative program called "MicroExplorers:  Adventures in a Tiny Universe."  The program is designed for local K-8 students and their teachers, and promotes family-based science discovery by using small digital microscopes to introduce students to the structure, properties and chemistry of matter.  The microscope magnifies an object 200x allowing users to take a closer look at many kid-intriguing items including nose hair, snail slime trails and insect appendages.  The microscope streams the image to a computer screen allowing students to acquire images and analyze them using child-friendly software.


Morgridge Center Associate Director Randy Wallar stated, "At a time when concerns about our children's science aptitude is at an all time high, the Morgridge Center grant will help the UW Department of Biochemistry expand their unique science education program.  We are pleased this will provide leadership opportunities for UW students to participate, while addressing critical educational needs in our local community."


The unique program introduces students and adults to the biology, chemistry, and structure of matter by exploring phenomena and materials with length scales from microns to millimeters.  To get a sense of these sizes, the human hair is approximately 100 microns in length, and crystals are often measured in millimeters. 


The Microexplorers program will develop activities to introduce and reinforce concepts of the physical sciences, including the study of metals, crystals, liquid crystals, micro- and nanostructured materials and plants.  Activities will be tailored to different age groups to address their unique level of scientific understanding.  The experience will teach children how scientists think and how observations and hypotheses can be tested using experiments. 


Douglas Weibel, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and lead on the project stated, "There is an exciting world waiting to be discovered by inquisitive minds using low-cost digital microscopes as a platform for discovery-based learning.  Many children and adults do not understand basic concepts in biology, chemistry and physics.  These principles are easy to understand when a hands-on activity reinforces a concept.  The microscope is a great tool to do this."


In collaboration with the Center for Biology Education and the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at UW-Madison, MicroExplorers has already carried out pilot programs with over 1000 local K-8 students in classrooms, after school programs, museums and community science events.    In addition to providing educational programs, the project will develop a website for distributing outreach materials.  This will expand the impact of the program to students, teachers and parents across the country and will form a network with other science educators.


Thanks to the generosity of John and Tashia Morgridge, the Morgridge Center for Public Service has established the Morgridge Match Challenge Grant Program to further advance curricular and co-curricular civic engagement at UW-Madison. The program is designed to enhance learning and leadership experiences for students, encourage and support community-campus partnerships, and provide professional development opportunities for faculty and staff. The program will match up to 50 percent of new gifts and grants awarded to a UW-Madison entity or community-UW-Madison partner organization, based on the portion of the grant/gift specifically related to the mission and goals of the Morgridge Center.


The Morgridge Center for Public service, established in 1996 through a generous endowment by John and Taisha Morgridge, advances the "Wisconsin Idea" by promoting civic engagement, strengthening teaching and learning, and building partnerships through public service, academic credit-based service-learning courses, and community-based research.


The campus and community impact of the Morgridge Center student engagement and volunteering is dramatic.  Over the past academic year, over 4000 students participated in Morgridge Center programming.  These efforts have provided more than 51,000 hours of service to the community valued at over $1.1 million.  The center also supports over 1900 students participating in 94 service-learning and community-based research courses in 32 different departments.  This represents nearly 41,000 service-learning or community-based research hours, valued to the community at $850,000.




Contact Information:
Randy Wallar,
Associate Director
Morgridge Center
for Public Service
716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706
fax: 608-262-0542

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