BRIEF: Anti-Dog fighting group partners with Farm

Jan. 7, 2010, 12:01 a.m.

What do geophysics and space sciences have to do with dog fighting and gang activity? Not much at first glance. Nevertheless, Stanford Solar Center director Deborah Scherrer has become an active part of the campaign against dog fighting and animal abuse in the Bay Area.

The Stanford Solar Center recently formed an unusual alliance with Knock Out Dog Fighting (KODF), a program that works with juvenile detention facilities, alternative schools, community centers, law enforcement and gang prevention groups to stop animal cruelty and abuse by engaging at-risk youth in alternative activities. KODF was created out of the pit bull advocacy group For Pits’ Sake (FPS), a non-profit organization founded in 1997 by Bay Area local Kris Crawford.

The most recent addition to KODF’s repertoire of programs is Fun Science, run by Scherrer, a longtime pit bull owner and rescuer.

Scherrer and Crawford began collaborating on Fun Science in June of 2009 and it has since become an integral component of KODF. The program includes a number of hands-on activities intended to educate children about scientific processes in an engaging and positive way. Activities have included bottle rockets, dry ice and sublimation and to-scale models of the solar system.

According to Scherrer, one of the largest problems with the education of at-risk youth has little to do with the students’ learning abilities. Rather, in an educational system dominated by lectures and presentations, material is rarely presented in an engaging or motivational way.

“Many of the kids we’ve worked with are very bright. They’ll come up to me and tell me that they’ve heard of string theory, alternate universes and whatnot. It’s incredible,” Scherrer said.

In December, KODF was featured as part of the Stanford Solar Center’s exhibit at the 2009 American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, in the Education and Public Outreach section. Attendance was over 16,000 and Scherrer said she feels the project was very well received.

“We help [these kids] learn to make decisions based on discovery, analysis and understanding,” Scherrer said. “These are exactly the skills needed for them to move from inappropriate, emotion-driven behavior toward better, more productive choices.”

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