When animated creations come alive in a child's room – a jellyfish on a wall mural, a stuffed chicken, the bacteria in his sneakers – and help him with a science project, that must mean Duquesne Professor John Pollock is preparing yet another episode of
How We Grow
It's the 9th
in a series of planetarium presentations for elementary and middle-school kids that has just garnered Pollock his latest large grant from the National Institutes of Health – a $250,889 Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources. Pollock – associate professor of biology in the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences – will also use the grant for the production of more TV episodes of Scientastic!
, aimed at young children and their families.
This latest planetarium show covers reproduction and stem cells; other episodes have taught about cell biology, the inner workings of the brain, tissue engineering and type I diabetes.
Pollock's work has earned $4 million in support over the last decade, he says, because there's a huge need to teach kids health literacy. The difficulty starts with the large number of Americans who have trouble simply understanding what they read. "When something new is happening in science that takes more than a sound bite to make sense of, a huge swath of the population won't get the information," he says. "So I thought, let's rescue the kids."
Pollock also posts science activities on his project website for teachers, many of whom were not trained to teach this discipline, he notes. He plans to release his latest animated creation in the spring.
Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon students have done much of the animation through the years, and Pollock continues to partner with former student Laura Gonzalez, whose company, Green Eye Visualization, is animating the current episode.
"If you're teaching science, the way that the story is told, students will connect with that," Pollock concludes, adding: "We recognize it has to be as good as their videogames – or better."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dr. John Pollock, Duquesne UniversityImage courtesy of Dr. John Pollock, Duquesne University