Shiv Bhandari, a University of Washington medical student, left, shows students at Mill Creek Middle School how the heart pumps blood. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

UW team brings science to life for Mill Creek Middle School students

Science is golden at one Kent middle school, where top researchers and physicians occasionally visit to present an intriguing episode of show and tell.

The University of Washington Science and Medicine Day returned Dec. 15 to Mill Creek Middle School, giving seventh- and eighth-graders a closer look at a fascinating and evolving field – stem cell and regenerative medicine. UW scientists also explained other cardiovascular functions and biological workings of the complex human body.

Literally, it’s a roadshow of heart.

“I loved everything about it,” said a wide-eyed Zaria Greer, a seventh-grader who would like to become a nurse or a doctor one day. “It’s hard to explain, but it’s a wonderful experience … to see the lungs, how blood pumps from the heart and everything about it.”

Scientists and researchers from the UW Medicine Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (ISCRM) snagged the attention of young minds. The staff described its research and provided specimens and demonstrations on heart, lung and other organs to students divided into four lab-like classrooms.

“It’s for the kids to get an appreciation that science is something that matters in their lives, whether they want to pursue a career in science or not,” said Lil Pabon, UW scientist and research operations director for the ISCRM lab. “It’s something they can see every day and appreciate, but it’s something they should be more knowledgeable about.

“We want them not to be afraid of science … to think that biology is beautiful and something they want know about and incorporate into their lives.”

Marit Murry, a site coordinator for Communities in Schools of Kent, and her father, Dr. Charles Murry, a professor, cardiovascular pathologist and ISCRM’s director, arranged the science day for Mill Creek students. Murray and his staff have made similar visits before at the school, and the interest keeps growing.

“Students will hopefully get a sense of science as a profession,” Dr. Murry said. “We want to do a hands-on experience … make it real for them.

“It inspires me, sort of recharges my batteries,” he said of working with middle school students. “(For them) to see what it’s like for the first time … it reminds you how wonderful science and medicine is.”

Students saw biology in action. They had the opportunity to compare healthy and unhealthy organs, isolate the DNA of a strawberry and see how the brain stimulates muscles.

The school hopes to continue the relationship with UW Medicine and keep students engaged to science.

“I loved it. It was really cool seeing the lungs and the human heart,” said Jordan Jackson, an eighth-grader.

Jackson is entertaining a career in science and medicine.

“Big hopes … probably,” he said of becoming a doctor.

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