ONTARIO â€” â€œThatâ€™s my cheek!â€� said Annex Charter School 8th grader Emily Sanchez to
fellow student Emily Thomas in the biology labs at Treasure Valley Community College
The students werenâ€™t there for dual credit classes. They, among 357 other students,
mainly 7th graders, took part in Malheur Health Science Day, a chance for students
across the county to learn about health related professions and take part in hands-on
health science activities. A few of these included CPR training, a look into virtual
reality Z-Space technology, use of a college grade biology lab, and what is known
as Math in Real Life.
â€œOur goal is to have them open their eyes to a career,â€� said Nickie Shira, Science,
Technology, Engineering and Math coordinator for the Frontier STEM Hub of the Malheur
Education Service District.
The event was the first of its kind, brought through a collaboration among the Frontier
STEM Hub, the Oregon State University Extension office, TVCC, and Saint Alphonsus
During a quick lunch that saw every student pack into Four Rivers Cultural Center,
area universities were available to provide information on their programs. These universities
included College of Western Idaho, Oregon State University, Eastern Oregon University,
TVCC, and Stevens-Henager College.
â€œWhat Iâ€™ve noticed is that with this event weâ€™re finally starting at the appropriate
age,â€� said Angela Robinson, high school consultant for Stevens-Henager. â€œIâ€™ve seen
too much of: â€˜Iâ€™m a senior in high school and I donâ€™t know what to do.â€™â€�
Ontario Middle School was one of the schools for the science day and its seventh graders
got to experience some rather unique features of the event: mainly Z-space virtual
reality and an inflatable colon Saint Alphonsus brought to the venue.
â€œThereâ€™s something new tech students have been able to experience,â€� said Ontario Middle
School vice principal Chad Hartley.
He shared sentiments with Robinson on the importance of reaching students earlier.
â€œItâ€™s been a trend that weâ€™ve been doing,â€� Hartley said. â€œThe earlier you can get
a student to start thinking about a career, the better.â€�
A group of Ontario Middle School students gathered inside the inflatable colon with
some beginning to poke and hug what they thought looked to be a raspberry hanging
from the blow up structure.
â€œThat raspberry youâ€™re hugging is actually a tumor,â€� said Saint Alphonsus registered
nurse Lauree Barry.
Some of the students immediately let go.
Schools were divided into groups led by TVCC and in some cases, high school students.
One of those was Adrian High School junior Eduardo MuÃ±oz, who was amazed at the opportunities
the 7th graders were able to have on Thursday.
â€œI hope these kids realize whatâ€™s before them,â€� MuÃ±oz said. â€œThey need to take advantage
of this. I mean, theyâ€™re learning things today that I am currently learning right
now, so itâ€™s great for them.â€�
Samuel Castonguay, a physical sciences instructor at TVCC, was present during the
lab experience to provide some help on a cheek cell lab worksheet the students worked
on as they peeked into a microscope.
â€œItâ€™s been a whirlwind experience for some of them,â€� Castonguay said. â€œThe college
experience is new, and a chance to step into a laboratory.â€�
He was also excited for the enthusiasm shown by some of the students.
â€œThere were 20 percent, maybe lower, of kids hoping for that â€˜ahaâ€™ moment that they
got today,â€� he said.