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Purmessur-Walter's CAREER award funds outreach for young children

NSF Skeleton School


Headshot of devina purmessur walter
Dr. Devina Purmessur-Walter

Devina Purmessur-Walter, PhD, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, is using part of her Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation to teach preschool and kindergarten students how exercise and movement influences skeletal tissues and joints in a program she calls Skeleton School. Working with The Ohio State University Child Care Program, Skeleton School aims to engage students at a very young age to help foster a life-long interest in science, medicine, and engineering.

“We hope the topics will be fun and get the children excited and engaged about skeletons, science and engineering, which is our main goal. Once we have established this program at OSU, our long-term goal is to reach out and engage more broadly with local Columbus city school communities,” said Purmessur-Walter about the Skelton School.

hand made out of cardboard, straws and string to show tendons
Dr. Sara McBride-Gagyi tests out an activity for this fall's Skeleton School

Throughout Skeleton School, pre-k and kindergarten students learn how the muscular skeletal system works. Specifically, the program focuses on bones and joints, what they are, why they are important, and how things like exercise and proper diet can help to keep them healthy. The program includes visits from guest speakers, such as orthopedic doctors from OSU Medical Center to share what happens when you break bones and how they fix them.

Dr. Devina Purmessur-Walter and BME faculty members Drs. Sara McBride-Gagyi and Benjamin Walter are currently working with OSU graduate and undergraduate students on new topics and class activities for this upcoming fall such as, “What are bones and what do they do?”, “How do muscles work with our bones?” and “How do joints help us move?”.

“Active learning strategies are key to engaging with children from such a young age” said Dr. Devina Purmessur-Walter. As such they are developing lesson plans that use a multitude of media types and ‘hands-on’ activities. Activities range from real world examples through show and tell, puzzles, songs, and children’s books/stories to having students create their own models from cardboard, paper and plastic. They hope these activities will stimulate the children’s curiosity while at the same time engaging their creativity and passion for all things STEM.

Children listen to Dr. Dale showing bones to them
The students listen closely to Dr. Dale Gnodovec as he shares bones with them

During the first session of Skeleton School, Dr. Dale Gnidovec, resident paleontologist from Orton Geology Museum, presented the preschool students with some very big bones: an elephant femur that was taller than the kids, mammoth and mastodon teeth, and even a Tyrannosaurus Rex toe. The students were very curious and eager to learn about the fossils Dr. Gnidovec shared. 

The CAREER award is the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of both.

Image of a trex colored by a child. It says next to it: I learned Trex have toes. Henry
Henry's thank you card says "I learned trex hav[e] toes"

If you would like to support BME outreach like that Dr. Devina Purmessur-Walter is doing through Skeleton School, consider giving to the Department of Biomedical Engineering, where we are engineering better health.