Illuminations

Nurturing interest in science and understanding the role of a scientist by teaching younger students how to apply scientific thinking during daily activities

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00016.2018

INTRODUCTION

Scientific advancements continue to occur rapidly with much enthusiasm across the scientific community; however, that is not matched by an equally strong trend of the general population becoming interested in learning about or supporting science (7). This discordance between the public interest in scientific findings and progress is particularly relevant in underrepresented groups. In this article, we present a set of activities that were performed to evaluate the outcomes of teaching the role of scientists in society, the applicability of the scientific method, and the integration of physiology in daily tasks in a group of students attending elementary school in Ponce, Puerto Rico (PR). With this intervention, we aim to promote scientific interest from an early age by demonstrating to these students how to incorporate and use science for their benefit and not just as part of their school curriculum.

Representation of the Hispanic population in research, clinical studies, science education programs, and scientific workforce lags behind that of other ethnic groups. According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 8% of Hispanic students during the year 2009–2010 obtained a certificate or degree in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The National Science Foundation reports that, in 2015, Hispanics represented 7% of the STEM workforce. On the other hand, the Joint Economic Committee foresees that STEM careers will have a 17% increase in the United States over the next 10 yr. Similarly, the Hispanic population will continue to significantly increase. With a rise in their demographics, it is important to have an equal representation of Hispanics among the STEM workforce and in leadership positions. In PR, a scarcity of research opportunities across all levels of education, but particularly undergraduate and earlier, leave the student population underserved. This limits scientific education, participation, and subsequently the opportunity of developing scientists who can benefit from the potential for research and development on the island and abroad.

In an effort to identify factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of the Hispanic population in science, several aspects, such as economic, cultural, and educational, have been studied (1, 4). Many of these barriers have started to be eliminated by the development of programs that promote STEM careers. Some of these programs include the following: Upward Bound, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP), and the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) from the National Institutes of Health. Nevertheless, even when there are opportunities for minority students to engage in a scientific experience and when there are living examples of Hispanic scientists to serve as role models, it seems to fall short of encouraging adequate participation in science of both the students and the general community.

The Ponce Research Institute at Ponce Health Sciences University (PHSU) in Ponce, PR, has, over the past decade, developed annual outreach activities, some of these as part of the Physiology Understanding (PhUn) Week sponsored by the American Physiological Society, which now impacts more than 100,000 students nationwide (15). Our scientists (faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and technical staff) visit schools and universities in the southern area of the island to introduce students to a more practical way of learning about physiology and other fields of science. We have done this by combining interactive talks with hands-on stations that allow the participants to get involved and obtain information in an active way. Importantly, different tools, such as movies, demonstrations of real organs and tissues, application of the scientific method, short experiments, games, and other activities, are included, besides the traditional chalk talk, as part of the learning experience. Many of the results collected during these events have been presented at the annual Experimental Biology meetings and have been published as abstracts or presented during PhUn Week information sessions (8, 12). We also train undergraduate students from several institutions in PR who rotate in our laboratories and are exposed to active scientific research, either as volunteers or through various honors programs.

However, despite an awareness of this need for exposure to research opportunities and many years of work, it seems that the level of effort put into training and educating is still not producing an adequate increase in students pursuing and completing careers in STEM or becoming advocates for science (6). Based on our own experiences, we have discerned that perhaps we should not be focusing all of our energies on the high school and undergraduate students, since they are the closest groups to the step of pursuing a scientific career. Rather, we need to also target the younger students (elementary school), where our efforts to expose and educate might be received with even greater enthusiasm, because, at this age, students are more open-minded and at the peak of learning and exploring. If we wait until high school, it might be too late to motivate future scientists or at least to help them develop a sense of the value of science to society. This is especially true in a population in which careers in research are unfamiliar to many or poorly understood. It is important to teach these children that science is not an abstract phenomenon limited to a career option, but that it is a tool we all can use to understand and enrich everyday life.

It has been demonstrated that children possess scientist-like traits (inquisitiveness) by nature and can more readily come up with causal inferences than adults (11). They like to explore new things, constantly ask questions, and are more creative. Taking this into consideration, we have focused our recent activities toward showing elementary school students that science pervades their daily life in ways that supersede the school curriculum. We show them that scientists work in a variety of places and perform different tasks, and that understanding physiology can help us make important decisions daily. It is necessary to prevent these students from shunning science as esoteric, inaccessible, or boring. Sharing our very own examples as scientists with these young students is important to create awareness of the role of scientists in our society at the present time and not just as a part of history.

Our main goal is to let these students know that science is fun and useful in many settings outside the laboratory. We want them to see not only the importance of having scientists doing research, but also that scientists are great educators. They need to know how scientists work in collaboration with other health professionals to understand diseases and develop therapies. We have to educate these children about the need for scientists within the government to provide facts that frame debates and guide important decisions related to health, environment, and technology. The way science is taught needs to incorporate the practical use of science and not just the memorization of concepts. Breaking down the traditional stereotype of a scientist and presenting the importance of science and the scientific method in everyday life is where we want to focus our activities.

The most important outcome of these outreach activities is to instill in these students, regardless of their young age, the capacity and drive to be leaders in their homes and communities as we show them how science is integrated into everything we do. Making them aware that they can use science for things as simple as making healthier choices when they eat something or practicing sports to promote a healthier brain is a way for them to feel comfortable with science. Equally important, we need to emphasize to the teachers in our local schools that science can be taught in a variety of ways that do not require high costs, or sophisticated technologies. If we can change the traditional way people, especially children, see science and they become more interested and understand its relevance, not just as a career, but as something that can benefit them as individuals, then we will have accomplished our objective.

METHODS

Activities were designed for students attending 1st to 6th grades in public and private schools in Ponce, PR. An informed consent was required for students to participate. A total of 76 Hispanic students with ages ranging from 6 to 11 yr old were included in this study (Table 1). The students we reached at the Herminia Rivera Elementary School (37 students, public school) were participants in an after-school program. In this group, we had kids from 1st grade through 6th grade with whom we conducted the following activities: workplace and tasks of a scientist, laboratory safety, and the scientific method. In the case of the students from Santa Maria Reina Academy (39 students, private school), we had students from 5th and 6th grades and our outreach activity was designed mainly to complement their regular science class. We focused on reinforcing science topics, such as the gastrointestinal system, the nervous system, histology, and anatomy. Other topics related to the different roles of a scientist were also covered but in a more general fashion. A pretest, to be answered in no more than 15 min, was given after a brief introduction to measure the students’ current knowledge on the topics to be covered during the event. The activity continued with a physiologist giving a talk about what science is and its importance (giving examples of the science that we currently do in our laboratory), the tasks of a scientist, where scientists work, and laboratory safety, followed by short talks covering the gastrointestinal system, the nervous system, and the scientific method. We combined all of the talks with hands-on activities and discussions. At the end of the outreach activity, a posttest was given and answered by the students in a maximum time of 15 min to measure how much the participants learned about the topics presented, as well as to evaluate the activity in general. A total of 76 participants from both schools completed the pre- and posttests. The entire set of activities in each school had a maximum duration of 3 h (Figs. 1 and 2). All presentations and evaluations were given in Spanish as a first language. All activities were reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board at PHSU.

Table 1. Student demographic information from one private and one public school participating in the outreach activities

School nameSanta Maria Reina Academy (private)Herminia Garcia Elementary School (public)
Grade level5th and 6th grades (science class)1st to 6th grades (after school program)
Age range, yr10–116–11
Male/female (n)17/22 (39)17/20 (37)
LocationPonce, PR
EthnicityHispanic
SettingClassroom and gymnasium

n, No. of students.

Fig. 1.

Fig. 1.Flowchart of the activities held at the Herminia Garcia Elementary School in Ponce, Puerto Rico.


Fig. 2.

Fig. 2.Flowchart of the activities held at the Santa Maria Reina Academy in Ponce, Puerto Rico.


Workplace and tasks of a scientist.

Using a PowerPoint presentation, different images of tasks and places where scientists work were projected. When talking about the daily tasks carried out by scientists, we also compared these with tasks that the students do in school (e.g., transferrable skills). These include reading, writing, and working in teams. We also provided real examples of places in PR where a scientist can work.

Laboratory safety.

Different images of uniforms and personal protective equipment were shown in a PowerPoint presentation. Students had to select which items are appropriate for wearing in the laboratory and mention their function. For each scenario, two alternatives were shown, and the facilitator asked the class to choose which was the correct picture. For example, students had to choose between wearing a professional suit or a laboratory coat, a protective hat or a mask, heels or closed shoes (shoe covers), latex gloves or weight-lifting gloves, among others. As the students called out their choice or raised their hands to choose, the options were discussed, and then the volunteers (if possible both a girl and a boy to ensure sex representation and avoid prejudice) were dressed with the appropriate item.

Scientific method.

We discussed the scientific method showing pictographs with a brief description of each step. We then applied the scientific method by giving a demonstration of a short experiment with examples of decisions we make each day based on what we observe. With a simple experiment consisting of comparing a vial containing salt and a vial containing sugar, students had to come up with an answer for each step of the scientific method. This activity was guided by the facilitators who gave a demonstration using the vials and promoted a group discussion among the students. At the start of the dynamic phase, the students were able to see what was inside the tubes, but they did not know what the content was. They compared color, textures, volume, and observed the reaction of the facilitators as they tasted the content. This last part of watching the gestures that the facilitators made while tasting the content of the vials was especially fun for the students. Since salt and sugar look very similar, this was ideal to generate a discussion based on what they observed, generate questions, and come up with a conclusion. Bearing in mind that these are very young students: we wanted to keep the activity fun and similar to a game or competition to retain their attention. Having the students debate if the content of the vials was salt or sugar, rather than having them take notes, kept the students engaged with the task. We also gave examples and helped them to visualize how they use the scientific method every day in activities as simple as choosing what to wear in the morning, depending on the weather.

Gastrointestinal system.

The components and functions of the gastrointestinal system were discussed. We emphasized the negative effects of a diet high in fat and sugar. A variety of products were shown with the sugar content represented by bags containing sugar. This was used to help the students visualize and create awareness of the sugar content in popular drinks. They learned to search for sugar content in different products and weighed out the corresponding mass of sugar. The topic of nutritional balance was also covered by showing them a representative nutritional fact table similar to that included on consumable products. The digestion process, from introducing the food into the mouth all the way to excretion, was demonstrated with a hands-on activity. The digestive system model we used consisted of a plastic bag (representing the mouth) and tights (representing the small intestine). Volunteer students formed a “bolus” with bananas, crackers, water, and juice, which was introduced to the mouth and transferred through the intestines of the digestive system model. By mixing the ingredients, the students learned how the digestion starts in the mouth with the help of enzymes. When the bolus passed through the small intestine, everything that was released from the tights represented the nutrients to be used by the body. The students also had the opportunity to participate in a hands-on activity where they simulated the function of the liver during emulsification. The liver produces bile acids, which have detergent action on particles of dietary fat, causing their breakdown into microscopic droplets. In this activity, we used whole milk, a plate, cotton swabs, food coloring, and liquid dish soap. We asked the children to add some drops of food coloring (red, blue, yellow, and green) into the milk plate. Then, they dipped the cotton swab into the liquid soap (the emulsifier), the molecules of which have a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobic tail. After that, they introduced the cotton swab with soap into the milk containing food coloring. The interaction between the soap and the fat of the milk makes the colors disperse because of the formation of micelles.

Nervous system.

We talked about the brain’s anatomy and function. To help the students visualize the brain anatomy, we downloaded www.brainnav.com and assembled paper brain hats that depict the lobes of the brain. The students also played with a life-sized neuron model in which neurotransmitters (small balls) were sent along the axon (tubing) to reach the cell body (large ball) to explain an action potential and communication across a synapse. Then we used a maze model to make the students aware of the importance of spatial memory and how we use this every day, especially while following directions to get to a place. Another activity that we incorporated, which is a perennial favorite, is optical illusions. With them, we can demonstrate how figures and colors influence perception and make us see things that are not real. Finally, in a CrossFit section given by a certified trainer, students also learned about the importance of exercise for the maintenance of a healthy brain. This activity was denoted “brain fit.” The main objective was to teach the participants that exercise is not limited to physical appearance, but is also important for a healthy lifestyle. Participants were divided into groups, and exercises were completed in a set period of time. Stretching exercises and burpees were followed by the use of a flat ladder for coordination and balance exercises and a weight ball for resistance.

Histology and anatomy.

Students were able to see tissue slices from rat brain, colon, and liver under a microscope. Learning about the use of the microscope was also part of the activity, since for many of the participants it was the first time using this type of equipment. The students also observed and were able to touch preserved human brains and livers using appropriate personal protective gear.

Statistical analysis.

The software GraphPad Prism version 7.03 was used to analyze the data from pre- and posttests. One-way ANOVA and Tukey’s multiple-comparisons test were used to obtain the SE and P values shown in Figs. 3, 4, and 5. For the data shown in Fig. 6, unpaired Student’s t-test and χ2 tests were previously used to obtain P values from pre- and posttests, which are shown in the graph as a percentage increase in correct answers.

Fig. 3.

Fig. 3.Where do scientists work? Before the outreach activity (pretest), most students placed the scientist working mainly in a laboratory setting, whereas a few students selected the hospital and the university as other places where a scientist can also work. After the outreach activity, there was a significant increase in the selection of the latter options (****P < 0.0001). The posttest also shows a better distribution of the selection of university and hospital vs. laboratory (##P = 0.004). Values are means ± SE; n = 37 students from Herminia Garcia Elementary School. ns, Nonsignificant.


Fig. 4.

Fig. 4.What are some tasks of a scientist? Before the outreach activity, most students chose “experiment” as the main task of a scientist. After the outreach activity, there was a significant increase in the selection of “write” (***P = 0.0002) and also in the selection of “teach,” although not significant (ns; P = 0.08). The posttest also shows a better distribution of the selection of “write” (##P = 0.002) and “teach” (####P < 0.0001) vs. “experiment”. Values are means ± SE; n = 37 students from Herminia Garcia Elementary School.


Fig. 5.

Fig. 5.Would you like to be a scientist? After the outreach activity, students who had not considered science as a career changed their minds and were open to considering the idea of becoming a scientist (from P = 0.03 to ####P < 0.0001). Values are means ± SE; n = 37, Herminia Garcia Elementary School.


Fig. 6.

Fig. 6.Percent increase in correct answers for questions related to the gastrointestinal and nervous systems. Question (Q) 1: Which lobe of the brain is in charge of receiving auditory information? Q2: Which hemisphere is related to creativity? Q3: Peristalsis, responsible for the movement of the bolus from the esophagus to the stomach, is which type of movement? Q4: Where does the process of digestion start? Q5: What are probiotics? Q6: Which organ is responsible for the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream? Pre- and posttest data were analyzed using an unpaired Student’s t-test and χ2 test. Each response was significantly improved when the pretest was compared with the posttest (P < 0.0001). This graph shows the percent increase in correct answers from the pretest to the posttest following the outreach activity intervention. n = 39 students from Santa Maria Reina Academy.


RESULTS

During our visit to the Herminia Garcia Elementary School, Ponce, PR, we worked with a group of students (grades 1–6) who are participants in their after-school program. This was a more variable group in terms of age and educational needs; hence we focused the activity on what is the role and workplace of a scientist rather than evaluating the students’ knowledge on a specific science course topic. Pre- and posttests were given to measure how much the students were aware about where scientists work and what they do. We asked participants to select all of the options that are correct. Before the activity, when we asked where scientists work, most students selected the laboratory (92%) as the main workplace compared with a hospital (3%) or university (5%), which were less recognized as places to find a scientist (Fig. 3). When we asked what are some of the tasks that scientists perform, most students reported that scientists do experiments (89%), with a few also selecting teaching (11%) and writing (14%) as other important tasks (Fig. 4). We asked the same questions when the presentations finished, and the results showed a more even distribution of the workplace and the scientist’s tasks. It was clear that, before the activity, the students mainly classified a scientist as a person who performs experiments in a laboratory. At the end of the day, they were aware that scientists also need to write and communicate scientific information and play important roles in teaching future scientists and educating the general community. They also learned that scientists can work in other places like a university or in collaboration with health professionals to understand diseases and work toward the development of new therapies. These results suggest a limited success on the outcomes from the way science is currently taught, what is expected from a scientist, and how the general community perceives scientists. Our results show that the students do not consider a scientist to be someone who can teach. Even after our intervention, teaching was the task selected least often (34%) compared with writing (54%) or doing experiments (89%).

Some of the students who did not consider science as a career option before the activity, changed their minds (from 65 to 76%), and during the posttest answered that they would like to be a scientist (Fig. 5). Of course, we realize that not all of them will become scientists, but this change in mindset may result in some of these students being more open to learning and considering science to be important and useful no matter what their future career choice, in contrast to their prior thinking.

In our visit to Santa Maria Reina Academy, Ponce, PR, the activities were integrated as part of the science class and targeted toward older students (5th and 6th grades). We focused on educating these students about the function of the nervous and gastrointestinal systems. When comparing the pre- and posttests, there was a significant increase in the number of correct answers (Fig. 6).

DISCUSSION

Striving to improve the science curriculum in schools and promote STEM careers is not a new challenge for the Department of Education in PR. During the 1900s, there was an intense debate about which language should be used to teach children on the island, either English or Spanish. While that decision was taking place, Mrs. Rosa Navarro de Haydon was developing the first science curriculum for elementary schools in PR (13). This educator, who was born in California from Mexican parents, obtained her B.S. from the University of Puerto Rico. She was one of the first scientific communicators on the island. Her example demonstrates that education has no boundaries, and that it must be provided according to the population needs at the time. Her efforts should not be kept as part of history but must be emulated in the present. Therefore here, we highlight the importance of teaching the applicability of science with special emphasis on younger students (those in elementary school).

As part of our endeavors, we have noticed that, even after almost a century, basic things like language still continue to be a barrier in how science is taught in PR. This is an important observation, because many science books are translated from English to Spanish, and the scientific examples provided do not accommodate to the student’s reality on our island. For example, when teaching topics like the ecosystem, books may refer to the snow, maple leaves, or a bear, instead of hurricanes, the flamboyant tree (Royal poinciana), or a tree frog (coqui). This may be considered insignificant, but can change an entire way of thinking and appreciating science. This is just a simple example of how we may be putting effort into teaching science in a way that is neither relevant nor inspiring, since it is not culturally suitable. As a matter of fact, taking into consideration the language and culture of a place when teaching science can make a big difference in the outcomes. One may think that having outstanding financial or technical resources are main factors in ensuring that young people become interested in science. Surprisingly, in more developed countries, there are less people interested in science or in becoming a scientist even when they consider that science is important for society, compared with developing countries (14). If we know that science is present in basically everything we do and use regardless of where we live, then we should be teaching science as a tool and not only as a conglomeration of concepts. Our objective herein was, therefore, to increase students’ interest in science, show its applicability to daily tasks and decisions, and educate children about the role of scientists in our society.

With this study, we raise a concern about how the way that science is currently taught may be actually deviating future scientists away from, rather than motivating them toward, this career. Not knowing that a scientist can become an educator may prevent a student interested in teaching from considering becoming a scientist or may prevent a scientist from pursuing a career in academia. Students are aware of the production of experimental data as a relevant task for scientists, but ignore the fact that scientists can also teach and need to communicate and publish the experimental results. This may be a reflection of why, once in graduate school, students may also have a wrong perception of their tasks and career options as future researchers. It is odd to have a student growing up learning that scientists are people who are in a room performing mysterious experiments and, all of a sudden, when these children become adults expect them to be interested in doing or supporting science. Again, this is one of the many reasons why we as scientists need to go out of the laboratory and talk about the diverse and valuable roles of scientists in society.

As scientists and science teachers, we also need to be aware of discussing scientific topics that are relevant for the time and culture of the students we are impacting. Topics like the brain and digestive system are poorly covered in elementary school. Other groups have documented their outcomes in teaching about these topics using tools like a robot for inquiry-based learning (10). At PHSU, we have several faculty who conduct research in either of these two areas and are passionate about studying and educating. Thus we took advantage of this resource and focused our activities on trending topics like the gut-brain axis. We presented the term “probiotics” and how microbes in our stomach can have an effect on the way we feel and function (5). Focusing on scientific topics relevant to health and social challenges in PR makes it more tangible for the students to see the impact of science in our society. With increasing cases of Alzheimer’s disease and gastritis in PR (3, 9), it makes it even more significant for us to talk about these scientific topics with our young students. These outreach activities also help these students learn about their bodies and become excited with the idea of developing healthy lifestyles. Although it was not measured quantitatively, activities like CrossFit, reading and analyzing nutrition information, and applying the scientific method in daily decisions (e.g., decide which food product to consume) allowed the students to better understand that science pervades everyday life. The excitement in the students was evident, and they began to express that they will share what they learned with their parents and friends (Fig. 7). They also commented that they will start to apply what they learned in their daily activities. Teachers were also very enthusiastic about the learning material and strategies provided for use in their science class. They were motivated when they got to see that there are simple ways to teach science and capture the students’ attention.

Fig. 7.

Fig. 7.Photos of participants during hands-on activities. Students are learning about the nervous and gastrointestinal systems as they observe representative tissues and organs.


In PR, science is taught from K to 12 in both public and private schools. There are also schools that specialize in STEM. With this in mind, we do not doubt that students know about science-related topics, such as the cell, organisms, human body systems, and others. The main concern relies on whether these students are aware of the importance and practical application of science in everyday life, and in making sure that they understand what the role of a scientist is and how they can become one or advocate for science. In the majority of our outreach activities, we have focused on increasing knowledge about physiology. During the past 7 yr, we have seen how implementing different dynamics and hands-on activities increases the percentage of correct answers. However, increasing these correct answers does not necessarily correlate with an increased interest for science, supporting science, or wanting to be a scientist (2). In the specific case of Santa Maria Reina Academy, we have visited this school on several occasions during the past few years. Regardless of impacting a new group or revisiting it, the students always increase their percentage of correct answers in the posttest given after each outreach activity compared with the pretest. We have also seen how the students increase their knowledge and improve their answers on the science topics that we frequently cover. For example, we bring them every year discussions and hands-on activities related to the gastrointestinal system and the nervous system. Answers to questions that are related to these topics tend to rank better over the years, whereas answers to questions related to the circulatory or respiratory systems, which we have covered, but to a much lesser extent, tend to have a lower percent of correct answers. Doing this assessment helps in identifying to which topics the students need to be introduced or strengthened. However, we have observed that the students continue to lack knowledge regarding what kinds of things a scientist does on an everyday basis and where scientists can work. We also see that they are not clear about what is the difference between a doctor of medicine and a doctor of philosophy of science. This is why we now want to add new activities that can also emphasize the applicability of science and the different settings where we need or can find scientists.

The scientific community in PR has been developing programs to seek collaboration and network among different institutions to better reach the students and general public. The Puerto Rico Physiological Society, Ciencia PR, and Neuroboricuas are several of the groups that are providing tools to young scientists to promote STEM around the island and in the mainland U.S. Our future direction is to help further build this network and incorporate activities to allow the students we impact to become leaders in their schools and communities (e.g., helping them create or become members of scientific societies, present at scientific events, and participate in science fairs). This way we hope to maintain a sustained effort over the long term.

Our goal is not only to have students becoming interested in science, but to also engage their teachers in this effort in a more effective fashion. It is extremely important that they have the tools to teach in an active and productive manner based on the students’ needs and environment. As scientists, we can help teachers become motivated and ignite their creativity, which can be more powerful than any expensive equipment or resources, to promote critical thinking and science. It is imperative that we, as scientists, also understand our commitment to being educators. We need to do science and defend it on the bench and outside our laboratories and institutions, making it grow in fertile soil with the support and trust of the general community.

GRANTS

This work was supported in part by the PHSU RISE Program and National Institute of General Medical Sciences (R25-GM-082406) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (N. Martinez-Orengo and C. B. Appleyard). N. Martinez-Orengo was also supported in part by Grant F31-GM-118014.

DISCLAIMERS

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

DISCLOSURES

No conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, are declared by the authors.

AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS

N.M.-O., M.L.C., and C.B.A. conceived and designed research; N.M.-O., M.L.C., and B.V. performed experiments; N.M.-O. and M.L.C. analyzed data; N.M.-O. and C.B.A. interpreted results of experiments; N.M.-O. and M.L.C. prepared figures; N.M.-O. drafted manuscript; N.M.-O., M.L.C., B.V., R.J.N., and C.B.A. edited and revised manuscript; N.M.-O., M.L.C., B.V., R.J.N., and C.B.A. approved final version of manuscript.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The authors acknowledge the many students and teachers from the elementary schools who participated in the development of these activities. We are grateful for the input and collaboration of Dr. Gladys Chompre (Pontifical Catholic University) during the planning and participation in some of these outreach activities. We give special thanks to the Ponce Research Institute staff and the members of the Graduate Student Association in Biomedical Sciences from the Ponce Health Sciences University for helping as facilitators. We also want to acknowledge Mrs. Wendy Pacheco, certified trainer, for help during the CrossFit activities with the participants. This work was made possible in part thanks to the educational material supplied by the American Physiological Society.

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AUTHOR NOTES

  • Address for reprint requests and other correspondence: N. Martinez-Orengo, Dept. of Basic Sciences, Ponce Health Sciences University-Medical School and Ponce Research Institute, P.O. Box 7004, Ponce, Puerto Rico 00716-2347 (e-mail: ).