Guam GENE-ius, a new program at the University of Guam College of Natural & Applied Sciences that promotes STEM learning for young students, completed its very first seven-week long course on April 7.
The program is a smaller version of the University of Hawai‘i’s (UH) GENE-ius Day program and caters to aspiring young scientists in grades 4-6.
Former UOG Associate Director for Extension and Outreach Jim Hollyer, brought the program to UOG with the help of Dr. Ania Wieczorek, Director of the Hawai‘i GENE-ius Day program at the College of Agriculture & Human Resources at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
“I call it serious and fun science,” said Hollyer. “The idea is in order for the U.S. and the world to be better prepared for what’s coming up on our planet, you need to have scientists. We need to inspire younger children to be scientists when they become adults – or, at the very least, to learn how to think logically and critically.”
Kamille Wang, the Guam GENE-ius program manager, agrees that the goal is to encourage students to build their passion for science and stimulate curiosity.
“We encourage kids to do more hands-on work and they do a lot of group collaboration and inquiry-based activities. It’s something that’s more fun for kids opposed to sitting down in classrooms and just learning about science through textbooks,” said Wang.
UOG professor of agriculture Robert Bevacqua is the grandfather of one of the young GENE-iuses.
“[My granddaughter] is in a generation where she’s grown up with handheld devices and so she’s a little bit addicted to them. And so this breaks her out of that mold and engages her in the real world with scientific applications and can encourage her in school,” said Bevacqua.
The instructors of the program are UOG alumni and have each earned a bachelor’s degree in biology.
“We have credible science funneled through trained people who are fun to learn from,” said Hollyer.
AJ Morales, 6th grader, said “I like that the instructors, they help you out whenever you need help and they have clear explanations on stuff.”
The program’s early success is in great part due to the collaboration with UH.
“We credit a lot of our work from UH,” said Wang. “They gave us 5 lessons out of their 24. They trained me on how to run the program. Eventually, we’re hoping to obtain the whole curriculum so we can offer the complete program.”
Guam GENE-ius differs a little from Hawai‘i in that some lessons teach scientific disciplines that are offered at the UOG College of Natural & Applied Sciences including military science, food science, and consumer family science.
“We’re hoping that in the end, kids will want to pursue a career in the sciences,” said Wang.