WT professor, students aim to excite young minds about climate science

West Texas A&M (WT) Professor Dr. Naruki Hiranuma and members of the WT Climate Science Society gave Tuesday’s instruction and climate science demonstration to Spring Canyon Elementary students enrolled in the Canyon ISD Kids after-school program.

Professor Naruki Hiranuma shows students the certificates they will receive for learning about climate science Tuesday at Spring Canyon Elementary School.

Hiranuma and the science society developed this outreach program, which focuses on climate education to a variety of age groups to get students excited about science. The program has been shown to more than 650 students at 21 outreach events since September 2020.

One of the main keys to the program, according to Hiranuma, is to make the sessions fun and challenging to students. He said this is a key at an early age to stimulate interest in students to the sciences.

WT student William Norwood shows a young student how to make a tornado Tuesday at Spring Canyon Elementary School in Canyon.

“Combining the topics of environmental and climate science is an efficient and interesting tool to connect young students with fundamental science, by demonstrating how science provides information so one can interpret, digest and solve everyday life problems,” Hiranuma said.

WT offers three different modules aimed at different age groups. The first module demonstrates to students what forms clouds, with dry ice and water. The second module shows students how carbon dioxide affects heat absorption. The third module explains how those impacts have consequences on Arctic ecosystems.

Debbie Collier, the Canyon ISD Kids program manager, spoke about the benefits of this program for young students.

Debbie Collier, program director for the Canyon ISD Kids afterschool program, gets students prepared Tuesday to learn about climate science at Spring Canyon Elementary School in Canyon.

“The kids really like it because it is very interactive as they participate; they do not even know that they are learning while they are learning,” Collier said.

She said the partnership with WT is a valuable asset to giving students a better understanding of science and stimulating their interest in studying it further.

“Climate science can seem pretty overwhelming to little learners, but it’s something that is really important to incorporate in a developmentally-appropriate way,” Collier said. “We are so proud to have been a part of Dr. Hiranuma’s pilot program and are thrilled to be able to provide this unique curriculum in our afterschool program in an expanded capacity. This is just another way Canyon ISD and its partnerships provide robust learning opportunities for our students.” 

WT student Trung Diep shows a young student how to calculate the loss of dry ice Tuesday at a climate science demo at Spring Canyon Elementary School.

Hiranuma said that fun is the priority with young students so that you can keep their attention.

“Letting them have fun is the priority for us; third- and fourth-graders are at the age when they decide whether they will like science or not,” Hiranuma said. “Helping students overcome their fears in science at their age is crucial not only for them to have their future career development opportunities in the science field, but also for fostering the next generation of scientists.”

He said that he and the WT Science Society believe that this program is a way to introduce climate change in an enjoyable and meaningful way. Citing that only 6% of students move on to study science in college, Hiranuma says that he wants to make an impact on increasing that number.

Professor Naruki Hiranuma demonstrates climate science using potato chips and amount of energy expended to students Tuesday at Spring Canyon Elementary School.

“To keep science interesting to young minds, we are going to have to be very creative with interesting experiments that keep it simple but not simpler to make learning fun for the students,” Hiranuma said.  “It’s our mission to make them think and become problem solvers. Just in our region, with all the drought and its effects on the region, this is an issue that affects all.”

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