Evanston youth solve medical mysteries with Northwestern scientists

Sara Grady
February 19, 2016

In Fall 2015, youth in 3rd-5th grade took part in a new Science in Society & Y.O.U partnership program exploring the health sciences through project-based informal learning. The partnership brings researchers from Northwestern to work with children and young people in Evanston’s afterschool network, Youth & Opportunity United

Every Thursday after school, Northwestern scientists challenged elementary school students to design a treatment plan and administer medical tests for a fictional patient, Sally. Students tested simulated blood samples and conducted urinalysis, learning about medical tests, disease diagnosis, and a range of medical professions.

 The program was modified from the Science Club Medical Mystery curriculum. This set of hands-on learning modules is built around a comic-book-style adventure starring Sally and the medical professionals who help her along the way. (Download and explore the curriculum for free from the Science Club website.)

Unique to this partnership, Y.O.U participants enhanced these weekly investigations by creating their own comic books. Students chose a health issue of personal interest such asthma, heart disease, and malaria. After exploring their chosen topic, youth participants created their own characters and comics inspired by their findings. This creative outlet, supported by Y.O.U. youth development staff, provided key cross-curricular learning and discussion opportunities.

In January 2016, young people joined the Northwestern scientists and Y.O.U team to display their findings and final projects, inviting parents and families to celebrate the student’s achievements and share their finished comic books.

Emily Fishman, Afterschool Program Manager for Y.O.U. at Oakton Elementary School, is enthusiastic about the partnership’s potential to provide authentic science learning. “One of our priorities at Y.O.U. is to provide opportunities to participate in Project Based Learning, which is exactly what Science in Society provides. Through the science experiments in the lessons, our youth are able to question, challenge, and understand science. Our kids love it! At the end of each session we ask youth what they learned, and the most common answer we hear is I learned that science is fun!"

The Y.O.U. and Science in Society partnership began in spring 2015 and has included both summer and afterschool science learning opportunities for Evanston youth. The program continues into 2016 with programs running at both Dawes and Oakton Elementary schools. Find out more about Y.O.U. programs for Evanston youth at youthopportunity.org

A digital science magazine published by Science in Society and written by Northwestern faculty, students and staff.

Connect with Science in Society on Facebook and Twitter.