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PEER Programs Work to Spark STEM Interest in Area Youth

Posted June 21, 2017



CVM graduate student Anna Blick teaches livestock anatomy to freshmen at Bryan Collegiate High School.

Area students received lessons on veterinary medicine and birds during two recent PEER presentations.

On May 22, PEER Fellows Lynanne Graf, Caitlin Spillers, and Anna Blick gave more than 90 Bryan Collegiate High School freshmen a peek into potential careers for veterinarians and the veterinary curriculum.

The BCHS students examined how veterinarians can have multi-faceted career paths, including working in the military, research, private practice, or academia, as well as zoo and exotic medicine, which was of particular interest to the BCHS students; during the conversation, one student mentioned that he would love to have an ambulance service for pets after discovering that not all vets work in a clinic.

Students at the “Early College High School” also were thoroughly engaged in a hands-on experience with plastinated anatomy specimens during an “Anatomy of Livestock” presentation and learned from third-year veterinary student Spillers about her experiences of both success and defeat, while being encouraged to keep striving for their dreams, even when they’ve gotten off course, during “How I Got into Vet School.”

Veterinary posters and college prep pamphlets provided by PEER were quickly procured by students attending all of the sessions.

“Overall, I think the students enjoyed the presentations and were very engaged and asked really in-depth questions,” said Graf, a veterinary student. “Speaking with these kids revealed their passion and love for animals. It was very heartwarming to experience.”

Blick, a graduate student, agreed that the students weren’t the only ones inspired that day.

“The opportunity to discuss science with a new audience is an exciting challenge, and a great learning experience,” she said. “I was impressed and very inspired by the students’ interests and ability to engage in the conversation.”


Girl Scouts at Camp Howdy use forceps as a "beak" to collect various food items during a hands-on PEER exercise.

On June 7, PEER Fellows Jessica Haynes, Graf, and Blick explored with more than 200 Girl Scouts of Central Texas how the variation in food availability dictated the development of different types of bird beaks (natural selection) and how the variation in bird beaks allows different diets for different species today.

The presentation, held at Camp Howdy in Bryan, illustrated the concept by offering a variety of “beaks”— made of toothpicks, scissors, plastic spoons, binder clips, and forceps—along with a variety of “foods”—such as marshmallows, rubber bands, and rice—for the girl scouts, who were challenged to “eat” the different types of food by picking up each food type with the various “beaks;” the scouts were then asked to determine which “beak” worked best with which “food.”

The girls received a badge for participating in this activity, and the PEER Fellows experienced summer camp nostalgia as they lived vicariously through the Girl Scouts.

“I never got the opportunity to join girl scouts; however, seeing how excited the kids were at the camp and how willing they were to learn was fantastic! The Girl Scouts even got to practice sharing and team building since we set it up as a competition against other units,” said Haynes, a third-year veterinary student.

Camp Howdy is a primitive camp that provides girls in kindergarten through sixth grades the opportunity to explore and appreciate life events in the great outdoors.

Throughout the summer, PEER will continue to participate and host outreach activities.

Veterinary students looking to enhance their public-speaking and leadership skills, while serving the community and working to inspire youth by revealing the wonders of STEM, can apply online for the PEER program here.

Lynanne Graf, Torri Whitaker, and Jessica Haynes contributed to this article.

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