Engaging students in exploration

IS-Wentzville-1024x683His fans call him Mr. Roco, and he may be the most famous member of the Institute for School Partnership (ISP) team at Washington University. Each week Mr. Roco visits local schools with the MySci Investigation Station, where he is often met with screams from his adoring, or slightly terrified, fans.

Mr. Roco is, after all, a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.

On one of his most recent trips with the Investigation Station, he visited Frontier Middle School in the Wentzville School District during their school-wide STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) night.

“The thought of holding a giant cockroach can be quite frightening at first,” said Diane Pilla, the Resource Center project coordinator and the ISP’s Investigation Station expert. “But as soon as I place him in their small hands, they realize how tame and cute he actually is.”

Students from Frontier Middle School gather on the Investigation Station to learn about the water cycle in a new way. (ISP Photo: Barajas)

Students from Frontier Middle School gather on the Investigation Station to learn about the water cycle in a new way. (ISP Photo: Barajas)

However, Mr. Roco isn’t the only reason kids flock to the Investigation Station. The station is a scientific treasure trove, complete with fossils, skeletons and a replica of a limestone cave.

At Frontier Middle School, over 100 students and parents made their way through the station. Originally developed with support from the Monsanto Fund, the Investigation Station is meant to give young students early exposure to the sciences.

“We recognize the importance of engaging students in exploration at a young age,” said Victoria May, the executive director of the ISP. “It’s unique experiences like the Investigation Station that allow students to push the boundaries of their imagination and find out what science is all about.”

Each year, the Investigation Station serves an average of 10,000 people, with events ranging from STEM nights to county fairs. The station is freely available for local schools and education organizations to request.

“I like to think of the Investigation Station as being the carrot which could spark the curiosity of a child, whether it be the limestone cave, holding a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach or millipedes, feeling an animal pelt, or something else on there that makes them want to go investigate and learn more about it,” Pilla said.

“Basically, I am spending time with the next generation of scientists!”

March 2016 | by, Gennafer Barajas

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