When 12-Year-Olds Try and Cure CancerMay 17, 2012 @ 5:08 pm (Updated: 5:41 pm - 5/17/12 )
By Rachel Belle
Dutch Hill elementary sixth grade teacher, Alex Snyder, says he was reading the Dune series when a paragraph about energy gave him an educational epiphany.
"It kind of stopped me, and I was thinking 'What if I look at my classroom as purely energy?' There's so much energy in this classroom. I have 32 kids in a portable. So I was thinking how I could use there energy in a good way and I thought maybe we can figure out ways to cure cancer."
So he contacted Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and they connected Alex's students with doctors and scientists.
"We've been working on this since the beginning of the year and we've been emailing our doctor partners and asking them questions and coming up with ideas," says 6th grade student Isabelle Nyquist.
Isabelle and her classmates have since come up with some very unique ways to combat cancer.
"My idea was to use coffee because when kids drink it, it stops your growth," says student Chloe Hipp. "So I thought if you put it in the cancer, it might stop it from growing."
For some reason a lot of the kids thought bleach would be a good cancer stopping chemical. Megan Coonrod says half the class included bleach in their theories.
"Since bleach is poisonous, if you injected it into the cancer cells, it might kill the cancer cells."
Eleven-year-old Karl Berner came with my very favorite solution.
"What if you somehow made tiny, tiny little robots that could just go in and kill off the cells."
Fred Hutch grad student Amanda Frey is one of the scientists who has been corresponding with the kids. The idea was not only to get the students thinking, but to inspire researchers to think outside the box.
"I do think that coming at it from their perspective really helps scientists to sort of think outside the box. Although their ideas might not be exactly something that would be feasible, it's definitely a new way at looking at approaches that could one day definitely be used or incorporated into my research."
"I think that a lot of people underestimate these kids," Alex says. "You know, they're 11 and 12 years old and [people] think 'Oh, whatever, they're in school, they're learning basic stuff.' If you give these kids an opportunity to learn this stuff, it's amazing what comes out of them. It truly is amazing."
Eleven-year-old Melina Keogh feels the same way.
"I think that it's kind of good that kids are trying to cure [cancer] because sometimes when you're an adult you think 'Oh, that won't work,' because that's what you've been taught. When you're a kid you have a free mind, an open mind, to anything. I think that no matter how old you are people shouldn't judge you. You can do anything you want."
The kids got to take field trip from Snohomish to Fred Hutchinson last Friday to meet the researchers they've been corresponding with and tour the lab. Teacher Alex has already made a connection with Group Health for a future project and he hopes that other teachers take his idea and run with it.
"My ultimate goal would be to create this system that accelerates our society. We can take all this energy that these kids have, this creative, innovative energy, and use it to tackle all kinds of problems that we have."
Check out Alex's website, here.
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