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"Dr. Bones" visits the Lanning Square School

A photo of children featured standing with Charlene Williams, PhD, at Lanning Square Elementary School. Capturing the imagination with science play

What can chicken bones teach fourth graders about science? The kids at Lanning Square Elementary School in Camden, NJ found out a few weeks ago, when Charlene Williams, PhD, one of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU)’s biomedical science faculty, came for a visit.

After trying mightily (and ultimately, successfully) to break a few chicken bones with their bare hands, the kids learned about the composition of these tough-to-snap items. Dr. Williams performed a hands-on demonstration of what happens to the bones when the minerals (i.e., calcium) are removed by soaking the bones in vinegar (in case you didn’t know, they get very rubbery), or when the protein is broken down by baking them in an oven for a few hours (they get brittle!). They even got the chance to see the skull of a mountain lion, and learned how similar the skull of this wild creature is to our own.

It was a demonstration of science in action – the kind of display that engaged this class in ways that lectures and slide shows can’t – and one that hopefully will pique the interest of a few and gently push them toward careers in science and medicine.

This was one of many visits that faculty and staff of CMSRU have made to the “adopted" fourth grade class at the school in the heart of Camden. Delivering on Cooper Medical School’s commitment to the community, and under the leadership of Jocelyn Mitchell-Williams, MD, PhD, the Associate Dean for Multicultural and Community Affairs (read more here), participants visit the class regularly, helping with math and science homework, or, as with Dr. Williams’ demonstration, bringing a little medical knowledge to the group. “Our staff get as much joy from participating in these sessions as the kids do; it reminds us that we are very much a part of this community."

And soon, CMSRU will physically be a part of the neighborhood. With the final touches being completed on the building over the next few months, the school will officially open this summer at its new home in the 400 Block of South Broadway, right in the heart of the Lanning Square neighborhood.