CLARK, NJ – The Rutgers Science Explorer Bus recently paid a visit to Kumpf Middle School. The bus is a mobile science lab complete with instructors ready to teach middle school students about scientific concepts. The bus was at Kumpf from June 12 to June 14, giving all the seventh graders a chance to participate in experiments led by Rutgers' graduate students Gwyndolin Vail and Ria Sarkar.

Vail and Sarkar led a group of approximately 20 students through an experiment called DNA Detectives. In this experiment, students were tasked with conducting gel electrophoresis, which allows scientists to identify a particular person or organism by treating a sample of DNA with a particular enzyme.

Vail, who studies toxicology at Rutgers, and Sarkar, who studies paleoceanography, gave an interactive presentation on the experiment’s underlying scientific concepts and demonstrated the proper use of the equipment. Working in pairs, the seventh graders then attempted to identify various DNA samples at their lab stations.

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Kumpf teacher Jessica Bloom, who accompanied her class to the bus, sees the value of this type of interactive experiential learning. She stated that, though she did this type of DNA testing and more in college and has taught it to high school students, exposure to these concepts is also beneficial for students in younger grades. “I think it’s awesome that they are doing this in middle school,” Bloom said.

Kumpf Principal Richard Delmonaco thought the bus provided an special experience for the students.   “We wanted to give the students a hands-on science experience that they may not ordinarily do at school,” Delmonaco told TAPinto Clark. He added that science teachers “selected the DNA experiment since it went along with the curriculum,” thereby enhancing students’ understanding of what they’ve been learning in class.

The bus' visit to Kumpf was funded by the Clark Education Fund, which awards grants to fund various educational endeavors throughout the Clark Public School District. The CEF allows educators to apply for these grants throughout each academic year.

The Rutgers Science Explorer Bus began visiting New Jersey’s middle and junior-high schools in 2005. According to Vail and Sarkar, experiments conducted at each school vary based on that school’s curriculum. They added that Rutgers is working to develop new experiments relating to climate change and food science for the upcoming school year.

Ultimately, Delmonaco believes this year’s visit from the bus was a success. “It was a great opportunity for the seventh graders to experience an advanced laboratory and we hope to bring the Rutgers Science Explorer Bus back again next year,” said Delmonaco.

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