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Science at CIMMYT: grown-ups and children play and learn

At El Batán last 28 July 2006, we were privileged to host 76 children from the CIMMYT family. Following the DG’s welcome, a group photo, and final admonitions from their guardians, the youngsters aged 6 through 12 began a day-long expedition in which they would learn something about the work of their parents and other CIMMYT employees, as well as its importance in fulfilling our center’s mission.

On a tractor-drawn cart they toured the station’s maize and wheat plots. In the chemical analysis labs, they learned about the crops’ nutritional qualities, and they marveled at molecular wonders in the biotech labs. Not only did they learn about what the grown-ups do there, but they also had a chance to experiment and learn through play: as part of understanding the role of fermentation, they made bread and they witnessed how yeast can blow up a balloon; some children separated pigments in spinach and carrots; others isolated DNA using a blender and played with a jigsaw puzzle involving plastic pieces of base pairs of DNA, the molecule of life.

It was a valuable experience for the children, for adult participants, and for CIMMYT. Education changes hopes and dreams, attitudes and talents, fears and concerns, ideas and beliefs, and culture. Through activities like this, we hope to foster awareness of the biological sciences and CIMMYT’s mission through simple language and teaching based on comparisons, experimentation, interactions, creativity, and play.

Heartfelt thanks to all the children who took part, for their curiosity. Thanks as well to the CIMMYT parents, uncles, grandparents, and others who gave us a chance to share this experience with your children. Finally, we are extremely grateful to CIMMYT staff and circle of friends who provided support and to the FundaciĂłn Ciencia Activa for its commitment and enthusiasm, and look forward to more events like this one.