May 17, 2020

Dr. Ram's 'Creating STEM Pathways at Detroit’s Aquarium' named an NSF Facilitators' Choice Video

Jeffrey Ram, Ph.D., professor of Physiology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, in collaboration with Wayne State's College of Education, the Belle Isle Conservancy and Michigan Technological University, leads a $1.2 million National Science Foundation-funded project that aims to promote the interest of Detroit children in science and science careers.

A video produced by Dr. Ram, “Creating STEM Pathways at Detroit’s Aquarium,” that describes the project, was selected as a Facilitators’ Choice video in the 2020 SEM for ALL Video Showcase. Only 10 of 171 videos entered in the showcase received the honor.

“We are pleased that this video describing this collaboration of Wayne State University with the Belle Isle Aquarium to promote the interest of Detroit children in science and science careers has been recognized by the 2020 STEM for ALL Video Showcase,” said Dr. Ram, who also serves as director of the Belle Isle Aquarium Field Research Laboratory. “Today, when the impact of science on our health, economic well-being and environment has become so evident, this project has become more important than ever.”

For Facilitators’ Choice videos, facilitators, representing well-known researchers, practitioners and policy makers, “seed discussions and set a positive tone for constructive, collegial discourse.”

The 2020 National Science Foundation STEM for All Video Showcase is an annual online event. Each year, it hosts between 100 and 200 three-minute video presentations from federally-funded projects that seek to improve science, math, engineering, mathematics and computer science education. During the seven days of the event, principal investigators, practitioners, administrators, researchers, policy makers, industry and the public are encouraged to participate by viewing the video presentations and voting for the videos most effective in conveying the creative work being done.

The project involves bringing Detroit’s fifth-graders to the Belle Isle Aquarium, but it starts with teacher professional development to enhance their knowledge of biology and ecology, and to help them prepare their classes to benefit from their field trip visit. Aquarium educators and project education researchers follow up with classroom visits, and teachers get the opportunity to reinforce lessons with small grants to enhance learning opportunities.

“Students come to see fish, turtles and frogs, and leave with learning and excitement about what they, too, could be doing in the world of science,” Dr. Ram said. “We are pleased that Wayne State University has a role in achieving this impact as part of Wayne State’s urban mission.”

The video also generated considerable international interest, drawing 900 viewers from every continent except Antarctica, and was among the top five most discussed videos. Comments in the Discussion thread included, “Great video and project! I really like the drone shot you took inside the aquarium,” and “Your project seems like a perfect intersection of informal and formal learning spaces -- one that really raises the opportunities for children to learn. You highlight the enthusiasm of some of the teachers.”

The video can be viewed here. The project has also produced a virtual field trip to the Belle Isle Aquarium in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which can be viewed here.