The Reed students tend to be as enthusiastic as the children they have helped, many signing up for more than one round in the schools. Says Kaplan, "As I learn about my own research from having to explain it to Reed students, so they learn more about what they've studied by having to explain it to children. Take the question `what is a cell membrane?' and think about explaining it to a child. Learning and explaining are really the same to us."
"It teaches you a lot, to have to be able to explain concepts in such simple terms, "agrees Rachael Relph. For Amy Jahns, watching relationships blossom between Reedies and the children was the most exciting part of her job. "Reedies have all this information and are smart, but they needed to learn that they couldn't just stand there and talk at the kids. It's a huge effort to move past that. But when they did, they really connected with the kids and got very gushy about them."
This year is the fourth and final year under the original HHMI grant. Funding is being sought for additional years, including a request for support to expand the program to a third elementary school. "If we lost the support we have for this, we would look elsewhere for funding," says principal Nancy Verstegen. "It's that valuable."