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Students learning real-world science with help of UKAg researcher

Yukie Kajita, third from left, instructs young men in the BMW Academy on how to spray sugar water on their research plots.

PHOTO: Katie Pratt, UK Ag Communications
Lexington, Ky.

This summer, a group of young men from Lexington is learning there’s not an exact science to science.

Students from the Carter G. Woodson Academy’s Eco Club and the Black Males Working Academy are conducting an experiment about beneficial insects, insect pests and their roles in crop production with help from Yukie Kajita, a research scientist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

The project began with Eco Club members in the classroom this spring. It continues twice a week in the BMW Academy garden at the First Baptist Church Bracktown.

In the experiment, the students sprayed half of their garden plot of fava beans and potatoes with sugar water. They will determine sugar water’s effects on attracting beneficial insects, which control pest insects that reduce crop production. They are paying close attention to aphids and Colorado potato beetles, both insect pests.

“I hope they’ve gained a better understanding of the scientific method and the scientific processes,” said Melanie Trowel, a science teacher at the Carter G. Woodson Academy and leader of the school’s Eco Club.

Carol Hanley, associate director of the college’s Environmental and Natural Resources Initiative, connected Kajita, who’s in the UK Department of Entomology, with the academies. Hanley has connected the academies and their founder Roszalyn Akins with UK Ag researchers for three years. The researchers share their expertise on various project-based learning experiences and give the students a chance to experience agriculture and the many opportunities available to them in the college.

“Science is long term, and science is messy,” Hanley said. “Our job is to let them experience science at the elbows of scientists so when they think about science, they think about it in a different way. We want students to learn about scientific practices that are emphasized in the Next Generation Science Standards.”

Kajita said the learning experience was mutual.

“The students asked a lot of questions I never thought about it, so I also learned from them too,” she said.

The project will continue through harvest and culminate with the students writing a scientific article for the Kentucky Junior Academy of Science and Science Scope, a publication of the National Science Teachers Association. The students hope to present their paper at the conferences of the Kentucky Science Teachers Association and the National Science Teachers Association.

The project is part of a fellowship Kajita received from the National Science Foundation’s Science, Engineering and Education Sustainability program.

Contact: 

Yukie Kajita, 859-257-7450; Carol Hanley, 859-333-8248

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