Mary Ann Lila

 Kannapolis Elementary Students become “Scientists for a Day”

November 05, 2015

By Megan Bame, NC State University Plants for Human Health Institute
Twelve child-size lab coats are ready for wear at N.C. State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI) at the N.C. Research Campus, in Kannapolis. On Tuesday, November 17, a select group of aspiring young scientists will experience PHHI’s latest community outreach effort, “Scientist for a Day.” Doug Vernon, greenhouse operations and outreach specialist at the Institute, is coordinating the activities of the day to engage the students and encourage their interest in science.

phhilogoThe fourth and sixth grade students—two from each elementary and intermediate school in the Kannapolis City School system—are selected by their teachers for displaying a marked enthusiasm for science. Upon arrival at the Research Campus, the students will don a lab coat, meet research scientists and participate in age-appropriate, hands-on activities in several labs. Before returning to their respective schools, they will enjoy lunch on campus at the Lettuce Eat Café. Vernon plans to offer Scientist for a Day three times during the school year and hopes to grow the program to include the middle and high schools.

Vernon has worked with Jacki Lane, STEM teacher at Jackson Park Elementary, to facilitate the partnership with KCS. Lane says, “The Scientist for a Day program will expose our students with a passion for STEM to the exciting job opportunities their community has to offer. Our hope for this program is to inspire students to pursue their love of learning in STEM and maybe even become the next great scientist or engineer, right here in Kannapolis!”

Vernon joined the PHHI staff in this new role in late summer and immediately began reaching out to the KCS schools to partner with them, specifically on school gardens. Much of PHHI’s research focuses of fruits, vegetables and herbs, making the school garden an ideal, participatory setting to introduce the health benefits of these foods. Vernon says, “The idea for Scientist for a Day came to me as a way to offer a high impact experience as opposed to a generic, large group tour. I also see it as a great opportunity to begin building stronger connections between the campus and the community.”

Retired from the Cabarrus County School System, Vernon previously worked as a high school agriculture teacher. “Doug has a passion for teaching and creating learning experiences,” says Dr. Mary Ann Lila, director of the Plants for Human Health Institute. “His role at the Institute will help shed light on our research efforts at the community level and hopefully excite students about the science of human health and role of food in preventing and treating disease.”

“Scientist for a Day” Participants are:

  • Forest Park Elementary – Chalmers Bankhead, Keaton Wyatt
  • Jackson Park Elementary – Tymel Crosland, Hunter Moore
  • Woodrow Wilson Elementary – Shyla Campbell, Ruby Hernandez-Herrera
  • Fred L. Wilson Elementary – Bryan Ellis, Emma Wingler
  • Shady Brook Elementary – Donnovan Smith, Marilyn MosQueda
  • Kannapolis Intermediate School – Nadia DaCosta, Tyler Becker


About the Plants for Human Health Institute 

The N.C. State University Plants for Human Health Institute is leading the discovery and delivery of innovative plant-based solutions to advance human health. N.C. Cooperative Extension serves as the outreach component of the institute, which is part of the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis. The campus is a public-private venture including eight universities, one community college, the David H. Murdock Research Institute (DHMRI) and corporate entities that collaborate to advance the fields of human health, nutrition and agriculture. Learn more at

# # #

Comments are closed.

Connect With Us