Buffalo school students excited about science careers

Apr 7, 2014

Some Buffalo Public School students are engaging in classroom programs that focus on future careers in science. The District kicked off science week Monday morning at School 19, the Native American Magnet School on West Delavan. WBFO's Eileen Buckley talked a group of 8th graders at the school about their interest in a scientific career.

Students at School 19 in Buffalo wear lab coats in a STEM class learning about EKG's.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"It's helping me a lot  -- thinking about what to do as I go to college, because I really want to be in medicine," said Jesus Vidal, 8th grader at School 19.

Vidal said he wants to be a doctor.  That's the mission of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program -- known as STEM  -- to encourage interest for future careers in science.  And it is a key effort to raise the bar for city school students at a younger level. 

School 19 was the first of 11-schools to participate in the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership with the University at Buffalo.

Schools superintendent Pamela Brown was proud to show off the program.  School 19-is one of the district’s focus schools, listed as a low performing school by the New York State Education Department.

"And so unfortunately there are those who would refer to our focus school as failing schools, but you can see right here that there's wonderful learning going on. There's a lot of excitement these 8th grade students about getting ready to go to high school and then after that going to college," said Superintendent Brown.

The classroom was filled with more than ten students and all raised their hand when asked if they plan to attend college.

8th grade School 19 students in a STEM program raise their hands when asked if they are planning to go to college.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Vidal said they've been learning about the human heart and were conducting EKG's.

"And how our heart can change in a matter of time as bad things happen, and then your heart beat can start to become irregular or regular," said Vidal.  

Heather Gerber is the 7th and 8th grade science at school 19.  Gerber said students are learning information taught in college.

"They've done blood pressure, hand grip, lung volume, heart beat. We've done all different labs," said Gerber.  "This whole thing gives them so many opportunities and gives them that little push to do whatever they want."

8th grader Daysia Ford also wants to be a doctor.

8th graders, Jesus Vidal (right to left), Mika Durgan, Jully Bui & Daysia Ford talk about careers in medicine and science.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"At least I'm going to school to see something I really like and really want to do," said Ford.

8th grader Jully Bui said she might be interested in becoming a nurse.                  

Every time I went to the doctor I see like all the doctors helping people, and I was like awe I want to be like one of them to try and help people," said Bui.

8th grader Mika Durgan said wants a future career in the science world -- perhaps even to study fossils.        

"Would want to go out and go to different exotic places and maybe find something that nobody has found yet, and maybe figure out some new species that we haven't learned about," said Durgan.

Leaders from the University at Buffalo and SUNY joined Schools superintendent Brown and students in the School 19 STEM class Monday.  

White Board in STEM class at School 19 in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

UB president Satish Tripathi appeared to encourage students to consider careers in STEM especially as the industry grows in Buffalo. 

Tripahti tells WBFO News it's important to engage students early on because a study shows many lose interest in science by junior high.

"Because at the end of the day, it's the students," said Tripathi.  "The news is more students are going to college for  STEM then ever before --  there's an uptick there.  I guess we need to prepare our high school students to go in that direction."

Tripathi noted these programs make a difference "one student at a time".  The STEM program at city schools is funded by a $10-million National Science Foundation grant. 

8th graders in STEM program at School 19 in Buffalo wear white lab coats. One student says she feels like a "doctor or scientists" when she wears it.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Students say they maintain their science interest outside the classroom -- reading books and searching for scientific information.  Students said they don't consider the STEM program a difficult challenge -- instead they embrace it, and even wear white lab coats in class. 

One student says wearing the lab coat already makes her feel like a doctor or scientist.