Microbiologist Stanley Barban introduces fifth-graders to the "invisible world of microorganisms" by swabbing a child's hand before and after washing, then growing the removed bacteria under glass for later study. He and the class also visit a laboratory at the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, electrical engineer Harold Sharlin uses wires, sockets, and light bulbs to demonstrate principles of electricity to fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders. Then he takes the eager pupils on tours of the Chalk Point Generating Station in southern Prince George's County, Md.

"A key to getting kids interested in science is to get them at a young age," says the 68-year-old Sharlin. "Studies have shown that interest in science takes a nosedive after the sixth grade. They have to be shown science in the context of their everyday lives."

Sharlin should know; for the last five years, he has been project director for the Emeritus Scientists, Mathematicians,...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!