Health and veterinary scientists tell their story to 3rd-graders

December 8, 2010

Sandy Amass, from left, professor and associate dean, and Kauline Davis, director of diversity initiatives, hold a new book created by Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine designed to build third-graders' interest in health and veterinary sciences. "How I Became a Scientist: An Activity Book for 3rd Graders" was published this fall and is being distributed to the program's partner schools. This book, which is part of a larger program called Fat Dogs and Coughing Horses, offers a diverse and personal view of eight Purdue scientists, including Davis, who are committed to improving human and animal life. (Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A new book aimed at third-graders features Purdue University scientists and fun activities to build student interest in health and veterinary sciences.

"When we ask young children what it means to be a veterinarian, they often think of a white woman caring for dogs. That perspective makes some children feel as if they don't have a place in this career," said Sandy Amass, professor and associate dean in the School of Veterinary Medicine. "Leaders in the field of veterinary medicine, as well as others in related areas of science, technology, math and engineering, are working toward inspiring all students from underrepresented minorities to those with disadvantaged economic backgrounds, to consider careers in science.

"This book, which is part of a larger program called Fat Dogs and Coughing Horses, offers a diverse and personal view of eight scientists who are committed to improving human and animal life."

"How I Became a Scientist: An Activity Book for 3rd Graders" was published this fall and is being distributed to the program's partner schools in Clinton County, Ind., and the cities of Indianapolis, Atlanta and New York City. A school in Ghana, Africa, also is participating. Anyone can access a free online copy of the book at http://www.purdue.edu/svmengaged/sepa/activitybook3

The program's title, Fat Dogs and Coughing Horses, represents the health issues of obesity and asthma - which is known as heaves in horses - that students can easily understand. The program targets third-, sixth- and ninth-graders, and this book is part of the curriculum created for third-graders. Both the book and curriculum meet Indiana education standards. The featured scientists, who study what helps keep humans or animals healthy, also can visit classrooms to talk more about their careers and meet students.

"It's like having storybook characters come to life, and this reinforces the message that people of different backgrounds can be scientists," Amass said. "Their stories also show young people the different areas of study: from how people age to heaves in horses and to food microbiology."

Featured scientists include:

* Karen Fingerman, the Berner-Hanley Professor in Gerontology, Developmental and Family Studies

* Cleveland Shields, associate professor of child development and family studies

* Zoltan Machaty, associate professor of animal sciences

* Laurent Couëtil, professor of veterinary clinical sciences

* Pat Wakenell, associate professor of avian diagnostics

* Ulrike Dydak, assistant professor of health sciences

* Ramesh Vemulapalli, associate professor of comparative pathobiology

* Kauline Davis, director of diversity initiatives with an appointment in the Department of Comparative Pathobiology

"How I Became a Scientist" was written by Davis; Jessica Schneider, program coordinator in veterinary clinical sciences; and Thad Blossom, a program manager in veterinary clinical sciences. Carol Bain, a technical research assistant in comparative pathobiology, illustrated the book, and Blossom designed it.

The Fat Dogs and Coughing Horses project, which is in the second year of its five-year grant, is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources, which is a component of the National Institutes of Health. The School of Veterinary Medicine is working with the Discovery Learning Research Center at Discovery Park, College of Education, College of Health and Human Sciences, Science Bound program and public schools in Indiana. The project also includes an interactive traveling exhibit produced by Purdue Agricultural Communication in partnership with the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Sandy Amass, 765-494-8052, amasss@purdue.edu