News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 19, 2009

Students from IU School of Medicine-Terre Haute lead projects

TERRE HAUTE — The first-year medical students placed various kinds of holiday candy on several tables in the Ryves Youth Center gym.

While children might have been tempted to grab the candy and eat it, the Hershey’s bars, Reese’s peanut butter cups, candy canes, Laffy Taffy and other treats had a scientific purpose.

The five students from the Indiana University School of Medicine-Terre Haute worked with children to sort or “classify” the candy into different categories.

At one table, a group of young girls led by medical student Kami Smith first divided the candy into chocolate and non-chocolate. They subdivided the non-chocolates into wrapped versus unwrapped, and then divided the wrapped candy into hard versus chewy. And they kept going.

The idea was to classify candy similar to how biologists classify varying types of organisms, said Ryan Sanderson, a first-year medical student who has organized a science club at the youth center.

During other meetings, the science club has made ice cream and “dissected” cooked rotisserie chickens to learn about anatomy. They’ve also made “goo” using cornstarch and water.

“The lessons are designed to make the children go ‘wow’ in hopes that they get excited about science and hopefully get interested in careers that develop from it,” Sanderson said.

Also, he hopes the medical students bond with the children and have a positive influence on them.

On Wednesday, the medical students and about 20 Ryves Youth Center children participated in the activity. The club has met four times this semester and will meet again next semester. About a dozen medical students have volunteered, and many more would like to, Sanderson said.

Medical students spend a lot of time studying, said Jeff Austen, a medical student from Logansport. Volunteering with the science club is “a good way to give back to the community.”

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