Program assists in experiment

Teaching Our Youth Science, a volunteer science program based at Florida A&M University, is designed to educate and aid youth in the field of science. It recently launched a new tutoring and research program. The U.S. Air Force Association awarded the 2009 National Educators Grant to TOYS and Professor Willie Williams of FAMU Developmental Research School.

Professor Thomas White, project coordinator for TOYS, along with several other undergraduate students set out to establish a project to spread the love and learning of science in Tallahassee schools. Shauneille Waters, Tiara Byrd, Kevin Patel, France Otchere, and Anne Patel, all undergraduate science students at FAMU, are involved with the grant proposal and putting the program together.

“We were very excited to start the program and with the opening of the new school it seemed like the best time to get involved,” said Byrd, 21, a senior chemistry student from Tallahassee. 

Along with White, the students wrote the proposal for the grant to receive money for the materials needed to construct the program. The volunteers  visit FAMU DRS and serve as tutors and program instructors for students.

White said many students come to college without the strong science background they essentially need to be successful in the field, and the program is here to stop that trend.

“We did it because it’s simply needed,” White said.

The  program aims to help elementary through high school students in neighborhood schools, primarily with the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test: Science. The volunteers go to Bond Elementary and FAMU DRS every Thursday to tutor. The program also helps those involved in their science studies.

“It‘s like a big community; our students help the younger students, and we provide mentorship and tutoring for them,” White said.

In the TOYS program, executives from the Museum of Art and Science visit the students.

The program also gives children a greater appreciation for science through hands on activities like their Earth and moonseed experiment.

TOYS received Earth and moonseeds from NASA to conduct their current experiments.

The moonseeds are basil seeds that were taken into space and exposed to various elements by NASA. Over a series of weeks, the students will observe how the seeds differ in growth speed. The FAMU students visit to aid them in this ongoing experiment and will research the oil extracted from the basil seeds.

Waters, 19, said the oil abstracted from the basil seeds could provide an insect repellent free of pesticides. 

“Pesticides cause cancer,” said Waters, a freshman biology major from Jacksonville. 

“Finding a supplemental insect repellent can help reduce cancer risk.”