Cultivating Future Scientists: The Edison Science Club

Zoetis Senior Scientist Dom Pullo during the virtual Champs Celebration.

At the 13th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, The Edison Science Club was honored with a 2020 Champ Award which was sponsored by BASIC Benefits and Miller-Davis Company. Edison Environmental Science Academy’s CIS Site Coordinator Cameron Massimino introduced us to these Zoetis-led volunteers who champion children. [If you missed this virtual event, you can click here to watch the Champs Celebration. This video will remain accessible throughout November.]

 For 16 years now, science-minded volunteers make monthly visits to Edison Environmental Science Academy. Initiated by Zoetis Senior Scientist Dom Pullo, the volunteers enhance about 27 fifth graders’ learning of science through inquiry and hands-on activities.

Photo credit: Freshwater Photography
Photo Credit: Freshwater Photography

In Science Club, students become scientists! Wearing lab coats and lanyards, and occasionally donning goggles and gloves, students extract DNA from peas, investigate circuit theory, study water filtration, and more. Thanks to a grant from Zoetis, CIS was able to purchase state-of-the-art microscopes so students can view specimens close-up.

The Science Club even recruited Cash, a very friendly and hairy, 105-pound volunteer. Cash assists Zoetis veterinarians (Dr. Theodore Sanders, Jr. – DVM, MS, MBA, DACLAM Executive Director Animal Research Support, Dr. Marike Visser –  DVM, PhD, DACVCP , and Dr. Paul Reynolds, DVM – Retired) in demonstrating animal check-ups. [Cash sat down for an interview with us and we’ll be publishing that conversation in the near future.]

As Edison students look on, Dr. Theodore Sanders, Jr. demonstrates an animal check-up (photo taken last school year).

In addition to Dom Pullo and the three veterinarians noted above, the Edison Science Club has been supported by a number of dedicated volunteers over the years, including: Blair Cundiff, Jacqueline Killmer, Shannon Smith, Teresa Miller, Joshua Kuipers, Stacey Wensink, Sherry Garrett, Kelsey Lammers, Kelly Turner-Alston, Kelly Kievit, Matthew Krautman, Brianna Pomeroy, Tiyash Parira, Tobias Clark, Lisa Yates, Elizabeth Graham, Ben Hummel, Clark Smothers, Adam Schoell, Rose Gillesby, and Thomas Berg.

Dr. Paul Runnels accepting the Champs award for his team.

Fifth grade teacher Mrs. Rocann Fleming says both students and staff LOVE the science club. These dedicated volunteers, some who’ve now retired or moved on from Zoetis, still show up and inspire young minds. Their passion for science is contagious.

“I’ve learned,” says one student who dreams of becoming a veterinarian, “there’s a lot you can’t see in this world that is real—like bacteria!—so wash your hands.” “Well, I’m going to be a scientist,” says another girl. “I’m not sure what kind yet, but probably a woman scientist!”

Edison Science Club, thank you for helping kids stay in school and succeed in life.

Where Was Dom When We Were In Fifth Grade?

Edison StudentSpring is here. And our newsletter, CIS Connections, is almost here too, making its way to 2,000 of you. This attendance-themed newsletter will be available on our website, snuggled alongside other archived gems. Featured in this issue is an interview with CIS Board member, Dom Pullo. A Scientist from Zoetis (formerly Pfizer Animal  Health), Dom has been volunteering with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo since 2004. For nine years, he has been showing up to run a science club that Kalamazoo Public School students clamor to attend. Pretty good attendance record, don’t you think?

Take a sneak peek as Dom, in his own words, describes the experiments he and Kelly Kievit, a Zoetis colleague, are doing with children at Edison Environmental Science Academy along with the support of Eric Clark, Field Enrichment Coordinator with Kalamazoo Public Schools. After reading it, check out these pictures on our Facebook album, taken by Freshwater Photography.

Edison Students w GlovesThe experiments, discussion and demonstrations we provide are not run of the mill fifth grade lessons, but we do try to align some of the content with the curriculum. For example, last month we conducted experiments where the students mixed chemicals that created a chemiluminscent reaction. Or, in other words “light.” This aligns with their early investigations into energy in a fun way. We also discuss other reactions that generate light like bioluminescence found in animals and plants, phosphorescence and fluorescence and provide some “around the house” examples. We discuss what is happening at an atomic level, describing the excitation and relaxation of electrons into the “ground-state” and that the energy given off is in the spectrum of energy we see as light. We help them make a “kid-connection” of the “excited state” and “ground state” of electrons by drawing an analogy to the playground! They love it…and it’s our very first experiment of the year. We then link this to Glow Sticks…something they know, and now understand how they work… through science!

Edison Student Raising HandWe’ll venture into statistics to understand the mathematical concepts of averages and probability. We’ll extract DNA from split peas and investigate circuit theory. In the past we’ve made batteries out of lemons, made Astrolabes, (an ancient navigational aid) and compared them to modern day GPS satellites. Then there are the demonstrations like our kick-off “explosion” where I pour boiling water into a bucket of liquid nitrogen! A definite crowd pleaser for all ages! And this year, a finale, where I’ll crush a 50 gallon drum with 1 gallon of water (shh!) An exciting way to discuss the states of matter! At the end of the year we host a “game show” like “Jeopardy.” The kids retain so much of the information presented; it amazes me every year!