Left to right: College of Biological Sciences graduate students Derek Nedveck, Mohamed “Mo” Yakub, Beth Fallon and John Benning; Minnesota Zoo conservation biologist Erik Runquist; CBS postdoctoral student Ryan Briscoe-Runquist and son Jack.
It’s a Saturday morning at the Midtown Farmers Market. Arranged across tables, in crates and under awnings are this season’s colorful bounty of tomatoes and green beans, sunflowers and ... scientists? Wearing purple shirts imprinted with the slogan, “I’m a scientist … ask me what I do,” several University of Minnesota graduate students are at the market to engage kids and their parents in science experiments and activities aimed at bridging the divide between science and the public. To accomplish this task, the team is facilitating hands-on activities to get market goers talking about gardens and the natural processes that sustain them.
The students were concerned by a study that showed that Minnesota’s racial minorities and women are falling behind in math and science, and chose the Midtown market at Lake Street East and 22nd Avenue South in Minneapolis for its diverse ethnic population. They wanted to bring science down from the proverbial ivory tower and make it available to the public. Market Science days were planned on alternating Saturdays, each with a different theme, with activities and experiments based on the theme.
“We wanted to establish a consistent presence so people feel comfortable approaching us,” says Mohamed Yakub, a College of Biological Sciences Ph.D. candidate and project co-lead. “We wanted to have more intimate conversations.”
Other project co-leaders are Alyson Center, CBS Ph.D. student and a St. Olaf College faculty member; and Jessica Biever, a postdoctoral associate in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
The students see the project as an avenue to recruit the next generation of scientists by making scientific research more relevant, explained Center. They hope their “science discovery stations” at the market will establish direct avenues for conversations between university researchers and the general public.
— Monique Dubos
This post originally appeared on the Institute on the Environment website on September 3, 2014. It has been edited and reprinted with permission of the author, Monique Dubos.