Have Kids in Quarantine? Introduce Them to Stem Cells with our Virtual Learning Resources

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many aspects of our lives, including the way that kids are educated. With countless students now in homeschool, maintaining their education can be a major challenge. Providing educational opportunities for students of all ages is important for ensuring that younger generations can still explore new topics and keep their brains engaged.

With NYSCF’s virtual learning program, students can learn all about the exciting world of stem cells: how they work, how they help us understand and treat disease, and how scientists are using them to explore today’s most pressing and unanswered questions. These resources include webinars, activities, videos, and articles for students of all ages, providing a glimpse into groundbreaking science. We spoke to parents in our community to understand how their children’s education needs have evolved during this pandemic.

Inspiring Future Scientists

“It’s on us to train the next generation of scientists,” says VP of Stem Cell Technology Platforms Daniel Paull, PhD. “Getting them exposed to science at young ages is only going to be beneficial for the scientific community.”

Showing students different types of science and career paths in STEM has always been a central tenet of NYSCF’s mission, and it is at the heart of our virtual learning program. Dr. Paull has recently been leading ‘Stem Cells 101’ Virtual Classrooms designed for grades K-6, giving students a crash course on what stem cells are and how NYSCF uses them to understand and treat diseases. These are interactive webinars, so that students have the opportunity to speak with scientists like Dr. Paull and ask questions on the spot.

“My favorite part was learning about the robots,” says Leo, the six-year-old son of NYSCF Senior Principal Scientist Ilya Kruglikov, PhD, who joined for the lecture. Leo was extra impressed by Dr. Paull’s descriptions of NYSCF’s robots which can produce stem cells from skin or blood.

“He had a lot of fun,” adds Dr. Kruglikov. “These types of events are important to me because I want him to continue learning about everything and spark his curiosity.”

NYSCF – Druckenmiller Fellow Alumnus and Assistant Professor at the Mayo Clinic Alexandre Gaspar-Maia, PhD, joined Dr. Paull’s webinar with his daughter, who is also six.

“She really enjoyed it. We talk a lot about ‘cells’ at home and she seems fascinated about biology in general,” he says. “These sorts of activities are definitely important for students if they choose to follow a path in STEM. I think exposing them to different ‘worlds’ is certainly beneficial.”

But not all kids regularly hear about cells from their parents, and that’s where virtual learning opportunities like these have the potential to make an even bigger impact.

“It’s even more important for kids who don’t typically have access to this stuff,” agrees Dr. Kruglikov. “Because in Leo’s case, his dad is a scientist, so he gets a certain amount of exposure to the subject from me. But for other kids, maybe their only glimpse into science will be through a webinar or an interaction with one of our scientists. This is what will give them an understanding of what science is and its importance for normal life.”

Learning in the Age of COVID-19

For kids worldwide, school is very different now. Remote learning comes with many challenges, including how to keep students engaged throughout the day.

“You can’t overstate the importance of online learning. It’s the only thing my son can do right now,” remarks Dr. Kruglikov. “And in Leo’s case, since he’s in first grade, there is only one online ‘class’ per day. The rest of the time we have to fill with other activities, so I’m glad there are resources like this.”

“My daughter has started homeschooling with a variety of different apps and a lot of help from us. She has activities related to writing, reading, physical education and math,” adds Dr. Maia.I’m glad these webinars are continuing. They’re wonderful during this time.”

Each year, we host a Family Stem Cell Day where students are invited to speak with scientists, tour NYSCF’s labs, and participate in science-themed activities that make STEM more hands-on. Many of these activities are now available in our resource center for students and parents to complete at home.

How Can I Join?

These resources aren’t just for grade schoolers: students of all ages and adults are invited to learn more about STEM. Check out our resource center here for more information on upcoming webinars, videos of past lessons, articles, activities, and more. We hope to ‘see’ you in our classrooms soon!