‘Bugs are cool,’ student reporters learn

February 2019…When Franklin Institute Chief Bioscientist Dr. Jayatri Das bounced into a room at Philadelphia’s renowned science museum, a team of William Cramp Elementary School student reporters could see they were in for a fun interview.

She had the same boundless exuberance that fifth graders exhibit on the verge of something exciting.

Cramp’s journalists had known they would have the opportunity to interview an expert on the heart and the brain and had prepared their questions in advance.

One by one, reporters stood to pose questions: “When did you decide you wanted to be a scientist and why?”

Dr. Das explained how she fell in love with bugs at age eight and loved them so much she decided to become a biologist. Insects can teach scientists about humans, she said. “Bugs are really cool.”

They asked about exercise and DNA, and whether DNA can predict diseases, including sickle cell anemia. “Exercise is the most important thing you can do to keep your brain healthy,” she said.

Dr. Das asked some questions too. How many students wanted to be reporters? Scientists? Hands shot into the air.

Dr. Das looked pleased. “Knowing about science is important for all of you,” she said. It is important to “be able to ask questions and think like a scientist.” She said it was similar to “being reporters and putting together stories. It’s learning that thought process and thinking logically.”

The interviews were over and lunch began, but Dr. Das stopped at every table to congratulate the reporters. One student took her aside to ask more detailed questions about sickle cell anemia, exhibiting the confidence-building that is a goal of the Healthy NewsWorks program.

Later, Dr. Das said she would be delighted to be interviewed again. Now, that’s source-building!

For the reporters, their teachers, and the Healthy News Works volunteers, the day reinforced a basic journalism truth: Never miss a chance to pursue a good story with a good source. It just takes a little preparation, some initiative, and a notebook.

—By Jane Von Bergen


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