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ECU Notes: Nutrition science students make learning fun for kids

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Jared Lowe counsels attendees at the day camp.


ECU News Services

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Students from the department of nutrition sciences are teaching at-risk youth the importance of healthy lifestyle choices as a partner in the Love A Sea Turtle program held at River Park North this summer.

Founded in 2005, L.A.S.T. is a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of marine and ocean conservation by engaging college students in leadership development and environmental stewardship, inspiring others to get involved in year-round service projects and activities, and providing nature-based summer programs for underserved youth.

Nutrition science professor Dr. Melani Duffrin, founder of FoodMASTER and director of special projects for the ECU STEM Center, plays an essential role in implementing nutrition education activities and recruiting ECU students to participate as counselors in the program.

"The Love A Sea Turtle program has offered a different approach to FoodMASTER and nutrition instruction, and we are thrilled to be a part of the efforts," she stated. "It is our goal to continue this model as our contribution to the science education culture of eastern N.C."

During the summer, L.A.S.T. offers free, one-day field trips to children from a variety of organizations across eastern North Carolina, including the Boys and Girls Club of the Coastal Plains, Operation Sunshine, Police Athletic League and Sharing Positive Outcomes Together.

"Our program aims to get youth outside to appreciate all the interconnections between nature, physical activity and food," said L.A.S.T. volunteer board member Dan Sokolovic.

Each day, a different organization attends the camp, where their youth are divided into groups and assigned to a student counselor, many of whom are nutrition science students.

Campers visit a variety of stations to complete activities that incorporate science and nutrition. They participate in a scavenger hunt, water quality testing, kayaking, fishing and team building. Scavenger hunts test their knowledge of the five food groups while integrating a variety of nature lessons along the trail.

"We want these kids to see that you can learn about nutrition and science and also be outside," said Sokolovic. "We show them that there's more to summer than playing Xbox or being inside of a building playing basketball."

Patrick Shirley, executive director for L.A.S.T., said the camp provides activities that would otherwise come with a high price tag.

Shirley said the hands-on activities change kids’ perspectives on math and science.

"We are making nutrition and science fun, and the kids don't even realize that they are learning," said Shirley.

Allender Lynch, a graduate assistant in the department of nutrition science, has been involved in the program for the past three years and witnessed the impact these programs are having on the children.

"Through this design, we have been able to target a large number of youth (nearly 2,000 attendees in 2015), and successfully included a variety of ages as well," Lynch noted. "When the children participate, they are not only excited and ready for a full day of fun and learning, they are also remembering the activities, lessons and the people who are involved."

In the future, Duffrin hopes to offer an additional one-day science experience for the same clubs and organizations on ECU's campus.

"The work from Melani Duffrin and the students from the department of nutrition science has been instrumental in our success," Sokolovic continued. "This group of faculty and students is committed to the success of our program because they believe in it. We all do."

Tenth anniversary of Voyages lecture series to kick off at ECU

The 10th anniversary of ECU’s Voyages of Discovery Lecture Series kicks off in September with internationally renowned speakers of wide public interest.

“Whether encountering a person or topic for the first time, or delving into a familiar subject more deeply, the Voyages lectures are events that engage our curiosity and touch our sense of wonder,” said Dr. William M. Downs, dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. “All of the speakers in this year’s series will challenge us to explore ideas that enlarge our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.”

The season opens Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. with the Premier Lecture featuring Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and investigative reporter who broke the news about the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration. In this presidential election year, Woodward will discuss “The Age of the American Presidency.”

On Nov. 7 at 7 p.m., ECU will welcome Eboo Patel, a member of President Barack Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships, for the Religion and Culture Lecture. Patel will talk about how “Interfaith Leadership Can Save the World.”

Two events will follow in the spring. The Brewster History Lecture, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 31, will feature Keith Wailoo on the topic of “Pain: A Political History.” Wailoo, a history professor at Princeton University, is an award-winning author who has written on the topics of drugs and drug policy; race, science and health; and health policy and medical affairs in the U.S.

The Thomas Harriot Lecture rounds out the 2016-17 series. In conjunction with the ECU School of Music, The Nile Project will present “Citizen Diplomacy & Transboundary Water Conflict” April 6 at 7 p.m. The Nile Project Collective brings together artists from the 11 Nile basin countries, representing more than 400 million people, to make music that combines the rich diversity of the oldest places on Earth. Using music to spark cultural curiosity, the Nile Project engages musicians and audiences, challenging them to connect to the world’s longest river and explore new approaches to its social, cultural and environmental problems.

Lectures for the 2016-17 season will be held in Wright Auditorium and are open to the public. Additional information is available at www.ecu.edu/voyages.