Dow Agro Shares Science with Half-a-Million

Posted: Updated:
Lang-Martinez says, “My favorite part was when we touched the roots at the bottom.” Lang-Martinez says, “My favorite part was when we touched the roots at the bottom.”

Fourth grade student Mya Lang-Martinez is just hours away from knowing if her hypothesis was correct, and her anticipation bubbles over as it likely would for a “grownup” scientist. In an exclusive with Inside INdiana Business, Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences is announcing that Lang-Martinez represents the 500,000th person the company has connected with in its science outreach efforts. It’s fitting the half-million milestone is a budding scientist—who Dow AgroSciences hopes will blossom into tomorrow’s plant biologist.

“We hope [the kids] will have an interest that’s strong enough to carry them through studying a STEM subject and going into a STEM industry,” says Dow AgroSciences Patent Liaison and Science Ambassadors Co-Chair Ronda Hamm. “We want to instill that passion and desire to learn and practice science.”

Hamm leads a team of more than 400 Dow AgroSciences employees who volunteer as Science Ambassadors, helping Hoosiers connect to STEM topics through events that range from the Indiana State Fair to local school science nights. Over the course of five years, the company says it has delivered its message to 500,000 people in Central Indiana.

Seeking to make science fun for the youngest crop of Hoosiers, the company is leading a project with hundreds of fourth graders in the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township. The students spent the winter growing Arabidopsis plants in specially-lit “grow boxes” that act as miniature greenhouses.

Called the “Cool Green Seed Festival,” the three-month project is more than just watching a plant grow. The program teaches them about seed production; small teams of students start with seeds, analyze the plants’ growth, then measure how many seeds each plant produces in its pods.

“They are so excited about the project,” says Wayne Township Fourth Grade Teacher Jane Nicholls. “They remind me daily that they need to check their plants. They get to touch it, smell it—we use all of our senses to make observations. They’re just so excited and involved, because they have a stake in it; they want to make sure their plants grow.”

Nicholls says the rapidly-growing plants allow students to see the entire life cycle, introducing the concept that just two seeds can yield many more.

“We counted how many flowers and seed pods there were, checked the temperature [in the grow box] and kept track of how tall they grew every time we saw them,” says Lang-Martinez. “My favorite part was when we touched the roots at the bottom.”

The students used the scientific method—making a hypothesis, conducting an experiment and finding a conclusion—to learn about seed production and what Dow AgroSciences does on a much grander scale.

“We want them to know science is not hard—it’s fun, and it’s surprising. A lot of the students are really surprised by how many seeds the plant produces,” says Hamm. “In the real world, the same thing happens to scientists every day; you think you might know what the answer is going to be, you have a hypothesis—but inevitably—it’s completely surprising and different.”

Each class also nominates a student to spend a day at Dow AgroSciences’ headquarters, meeting real-life scientists and discussing their findings about the Arabidopsis plants’ seed production.

“On a big picture scale, we have to figure out how to feed 9 billion people around the world by 2050 with fewer resources than we have today. The only way we’re going to achieve that is through the continual advancement of technologies and STEM workers,” says Dow AgroSciences Coaching/Project Leader and Science Ambassadors Co-Chair Amber Maynard. “The earlier we can get kids involved—and by extension, their parents and community at large—the better off we’re going to be.”

Person number 500,000 is a small victory for Dow AgroSciences; Lang-Martinez says she wants to be a scientist when she grows up. The agricultural giant is hopeful it’s planted many more seeds that will produce the next crop of workers with a passion for science. 

Hamm says the students’ curiosity and excitement are contagious.
Hamm says helping kids “get their hands dirty” brings science to life.
Maynard says even fourth graders can grasp advanced scientific concepts on a basic level.
  • Perspectives

    • How to Find a New Audience After Hitting a Marketing Plateau

      It may sound like a marketer’s dream scenario: efforts have proven to be so successful it appears a company has completely saturated their target audience. While it may be a good problem to have, it still may be a problem. Hitting a marketing plateau is an opportunity for companies in any industry to reevaluate, re-energize and come to the table with new ideas for better understanding existing customers and engaging new audiences.

    More

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • Shaina Keck

      Pier 48 Manager Named

      FK Restaurant Group has named Shaina Keck sales and banquet manager for Pier 48 Fish House and Bar in downtown Indianapolis. She previously served in sales at Kilroy's Bar & Grill. Keck is a graduate of Indiana University Kelly School of Business with a bachelor of science degree in finance and accounting with a concentration in international studies.  
    • (image courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana)

      Crews Start Demolition of Carson's in Hammond

      The face of downtown retail in Hammond is changing once again with the demolition of Carson’s department store, the one-time the anchor of Woodmar Mall. Our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana report excavating crews have started to demolish the last vestige of the shopping center which stood since the 1950s. 

    • (image courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana)

      U.S. Steel Cuts Jobs, Low Price Imports Partially to Blame

      Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel has announced it will idle its tin mill operations in East Chicago, affecting nearly 300 workers, half of which will lose their jobs. Our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana report U.S. Steel blames the layoffs on the Del Monte food company which announced its own mass layoffs. 

    • Gas City Startup Helping Hemp Farmers

      Last month, it became legal for Hoosier farmers to grow hemp and a Gas City-based startup is being aggressive in being among the first to take advantage of market opportunities. Heartland Harvest Processing is helping farmers connect the new agricultural commodity to consumer products, including CBD. Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Chris Moorman says the first hemp harvest under the new law is expected to begin next month. In an interview with Business of Health...

    • Lucy Schaich

      City of Bloomington Promotes Schaich

      The city of Bloomington has promoted Lucy Schaich to volunteer network coordinator, a program of the Community and Family Resources Department.  She served as assistant coordinator from 2000 until 2018, when she became the volunteer network’s interim director. Schaich is a graduate of Indiana University.