Source: Grosse Pointe News Online

Changing lives

by A.J. Hakim Staff Writer

June 20, 2013

Megan VanCleve wasn’t sure who said it, only that, on her way outside to the bus to say bye to the fourth grade class visiting from Sampson Academy, she heard one of them thank her and her classmates for changing his life.

“You can tell that they’re going to remember this,” said VanCleve, a student in Sue Speirs’ Applied Medical Research class at Grosse Pointe North High School who, along with seven others in the class, had just spent the afternoon of May 16 delivering a lesson on skin cancer to 30 fourth graders in Ellen Hoyer’s class at Sampson Academy, of Detroit Public Schols.

“They want to go to school here, they don’t want to leave,” said Hoyer, a friend of Speirs who agreed to have her class participate in the lesson.

Hoyer saw the lesson as a chance to hone her students’ love of science and to do so with a different perspective, in an environment with resources not necessarily available to her in DPS.

“These are the things that, I have a, a majority of my children are interested in getting in the medical field, so this was a wonderful stepping stone to showing them different avenues of medicine,” Hoyer said.

The lesson consisted of a skit, lecture and three breakout sessions — a tag experiment, bead string experiment and UVB sensor experiment. All related to skin and skin cancer prevention.

It was part of the American Physiological Society’s PhUn (physiology understanding) Week, a nationwide outreach program building connections between scientists and their communities, that Speirs heard about during a recent research fellowship with APS.

Given the partnerships her class has had with local hospitals and physicians, Speirs wanted her students to give back as well.

“We’re going into rotations everywhere around the community and all these doctors are giving to us, so we really felt that we needed a unit that was going to be a unit that was a service project-oriented unit,” said Speirs.

She gave her students a template for the project at the beginning of the year and let them take control from there.

And they did. The students — VanCleve, Evelynne Smith, Paige Rue, Michael Zheng, Grace Tatum, Tom Rafaill, Stephanie Saravolatz and Jessica Richter — conducted several other service projects throughout the year, such as a blood drive, CPR training, disability awareness workshop and others, all with PhUn Week as an end goal.

“We just put so much work into this and it’s kind of nice to see it all come together to see how they’re learning and how much they’re having (fun),” said Richter.

Added Rafaill: “Seeing ‘em right now, they’re like Mrs. Speirs said, they’re like mini scientists. It’s great to see that.”

Getting the schools together was a joint effort involving administrators from both districts, an effort all involved won’t soon forget.

“It really shows the closure of, that these young people are coming to the end of their schooling, getting ready for college,” Hoyer said. “And I need that kind of inspiration for my children, to see that this is the next path. It’s all positive. It really is. This was a gift.”