Surrounded by pristine waters and home to a vast array of marine wildlife, the San Juan Islands are the perfect location for the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories. Since 2001 the UW Labs staff have partnered with local schools spreading knowledge and inspiring island children.
“Last year we worked with 750 students and 24 teachers,” said Jenny Roberts, director of the Friday Harbor Labs Science Outreach Program, or FHLSOP. As a fundraiser for the unique program, the ever popular Jazz at the Labs concert will be from 6-9:30 p.m., Saturday, June 30, in the Friday Harbor Laboratories dining hall. To purchase the $40 tickets, call 360-378-2165 (ext. 0). The price includes dinner and music by the local San Juan Jazz Quartet and Seattle’s Jazz Coalescence. The bands will play everything from standard jazz to swing, bebop and Latin jazz as well as original compositions. Proceeds go toward FSHOP projects in the San Juan Island School District and Spring Street International School. There will also be a fund-a-need during the event to raise money for specific outreach programs, like “Taking stock of our Nearshore Habitat” and “The Invasive Mussel Project and Electrophoresis Exploration BIOTECH Labs.”
The nearshore habitat class teaches fourth-graders the importance of watersheds, eelgrass and fish species diversity. Fish are identified, counted, sized and returned to the sea. Students create hypotheses from collected data and present their results to their peers and Friday Harbor Labs outreach staff, explained Roberts.
The invasive mussel and electrophoresis project show students how to isolate and identify the DNA of wild caught mussels by using gel electrophoresis. Gel electrophoresis is a technique used to separate charged molecules like DNA proteins according to size.
Each hands-on program is designed to complement and enhance the current science curriculum, Roberts said, focusing on involving students in the process of science, such as observing, asking questions, predicting, collecting and analyzing data and making conclusions.
By bringing students into the field, lab rooms and the UW research vessel called the Centennial, kids learn that science is both exciting and important.
“It is fun to see students get engaged and invested in what we are doing,” said Roberts, adding that children love being sprayed by a scallop, clam or sea squirt, slimed by a fish, or even pinched by a crab. She also noted that it is empowering for students to use new equipment and participate in real scientific studies, and many have been inspired to make a career in the sciences.
“According to the Friday Harbor High School college counselor, approximately 25 percent of Friday Harbor High School graduating students go on to pursue degrees in STEM-related [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math]fields,” Jenny noted.
For more information about Jazz at the Labs, visit fhl.uw.edu/about/news-and-events/2018/06/14/jazz-at-the-labs.
To learn more about the outreach program, visit depts.washington.edu/fhlk12.