Hattie Cotton students have grown accustomed to having scientists co-teach lessons in their lab one day each week. To them it has become second nature to enjoy a hands-on science lesson one day a week but that does not mean that they have become complacent. In fact, one could wander the halls of Hattie Cotton and hear at least one student shout “I LOVE SCIENCE!” or perhaps a more casual “they call me Mr. Science”.
One day, while in the lab, a fourth grade student named Ruben said that the material inside his pencil was lead but quickly corrected his stance when reminded that in fact it is not lead. What is the name of the material inside the pencil; Ruben asks and stumbles, Germania, Gerfin, Gerrrrrrr? The look on his face suggested how frustrating it was to be so close and not to be given the answer. That is not how we operate in the hands-on, inquiry-based method of teaching in partnership with the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach. There is a Chinese proverb that says, If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime. At Hattie Cotton teachers and scientist believe in delivering knowledge that will last a lifetime.
Therefore, when the Science Teaching Fellow suggested to him that he research his answer in exchange for a treat, the fourth grader realized that that is, in fact, what scientists do every day. Real scientists do research and thus he set off with purpose and promised to come back by then end of the day. A few hours later, a disappointed yet determined young scientist entered the lab and proclaimed that he had not been able to find the answer but offered a few more verbal guesses. Sadly this did not earn him his treat but in all fairness there is not much time for research during the structured school day. Therefore Ruben was allowed to research his answer at home and bring it back the next day. This he did and proudly exclaimed his answer the following afternoon, “Graphite!” Upon receiving the promised treat, the student asked “can we do it again?”
This innocuous conversation about pencil “lead” has since morphed into something much bigger. The questions became more difficult - and the rewards larger - but not large enough. Therefore, we decided that the answers must be presented in a creative style and the prize will be grandiose.
Ruben brought in his first creative answer to the question “what is voltage?” and stunned us with his resourcefulness and ability to go beyond the question and understand how current is pushed through a circuit by pressure. While we awaited one more creative answer before we could give the coveted “mystery award,” (a bright white laboratory coat) we continued our game, and therefore upped the ante with creative questions.
As our inquisitive fourth grader was idling away on his second question we were quietly planning an award ceremony at the Hattie Cotton year-end event, during which our curious researcher was presented with a “scientist of the year” plaque, while, of course, wearing hard earned lab coat.
Our intention is for this to become an annual event so that all grades can participate by learning to research information they are curious about.
Ruben and Hattie Cotton's curriculum designer Dr. Regina Etter after the award ceremony.
On May 11th, 2013 the Belmont University Curb Event Center hosted the inaugural STEM EXPO for the Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub. Students from around the mid-state region showcased projects from several disciplines including STEM research, engineering, and biotechnology.
The Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach had students from several of our programs participate in the STEM Expo including the Vanderbilt School for Science and Math (SSMV), Stratford STEM Magnet and Hillsboro High School Interdisciplinary Research and Science (ISR) programs. In the STEM Research category students from these programs swept the awards:
Gold: How does sequencing the GAPDH gene in the Asclepias asperula plant species aid in determining phylogeny? Alex Jolly (Hillsboro High School), Gray Tettleton (Hume-Fogg), Arturas Malinauskas (Hume-Fogg), and Valeria Garcia (Hume-Fogg)
Silver: What is the Glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) gene sequence of the plant species Echinacea tennesseensis and how does it relate to that of various threatened/endangered plant species? Catherine English and Nhung Hoang (Overton High School)
Fecal Coliform and E. Coli Sampling and Tracking in the Richland Creek Watershed. Emma Kingsbury (Hillsboro High School)
The Effects of Mouthwash on Spearmint Growth and Soil Composition. Emma Reynolds (Hillsboro High School)
Bronze: Water Quality Testing at Cooper Creek. Desiree Schutt, Desitnee Schutt, and Shelby Seaborn (Stratford STEM Magnet High School)
Richland Creek Pollution. Madison Winsert (Hillsboro High School)
In the Engineering II category:
Silver: The Influences of Socio-Demographics on Recycling Behaviors in the Hillsboro Cluster. Mason Freeman (Hillsboro High School)
In addition, each business partner had the opportunity to choose one group to receive an Excellence Award. The Desiree Schutt, Destinee Schutt, and Shelby Seaborn won the award from the American Society of Civil Engineering, Mason Freeman won the award from Volunteer State Community College, and Emma Reynolds won the award from Aegis Sciences Corporation.
Congratulations to all of the students who participated in the STEM Expo!
If you have an article in mind for Young Scientist, take a look under the Article Submission pages on our website. Go to the Upload Article page to ensure your work is upload-ready and to create an account for your submission. If you have questions or trouble with your account or with uploading your article, please contact us.
The submission deadline of January 22th will be here before you know it so act soon!
We're proud to announce the Center for Science Outreach has a new location with more space and easier access.
As of Monday, April 23, 2012, our new location is on the first floor of the Sony Building next to Vanderbilt's Peabody Campus at 1401 17th Avenue South.
Our new mailing address is:
1400 18th Ave S, 1st Floor
Nashville, TN 37212-7831
Students in Ms. Susan Marino's science classes at Bailey Middle School recently engaged in a crazy activity. Under the guidance of Science Teaching Fellow Jonathan Reynolds, teams of students built their own crazy creature to learn about heredity and how it works.
A roll of the dice determined if the crazy creature was a boy or a girl. Another roll of the dice determined if the creature had a long neck or a short neck and then big ears or little ears. With each roll of the dice, students built their very own crazy-looking creature piece by piece. Special environment cards add to the excitement with additional activities that allow students to explore how the environment influences the traits in a population. When the creature was complete, students stood back and laugh at their crazy-looking creature. They anxiously posed for photographs with their crazy creature as if it was the newest family member.
Crazy Traits is a hands-on science kit developed by CPO Science that meets the science curriculum standards pertaining to heredity in grades 7 and 8. Through this fun and manipulative activity students learn about genetics and evolution. They learn that the traits people and animals inherit from their parents are based on chance. Students also learn about concepts pertaining to traits such as alleles, genotypes, and phenotypes.
On September 30, Ms. Martin's 7th grade science classroom J.T. Moore Middle School was transformed into a cancer center. As students settled into their chairs, the little physicians were divided into groups of two or three and were given two ziploc bags, one labeled normal and one labeled cancer, and 10 additional items representing the components of cells. They were challenged with the task of determining what materials are found in a normal cell and a cancer cell.
After a short presentation explaining how normal cells become cancerous, the little physicians were given a more challenging task, preventing cancer (food mold). Each small group created an organ composed of cheese, lemon slices, bread, and grapes. As a group they had to develop a hypothesis and create an 11-day treatment plan using one or a combination of several medications. Each day all groups treated their organs according to the designated treatment plan and recorded their observations. At the conclusion of the experiment, each group presented their experiment in detail to their fellow physicians.
Although we lost a lot of patients (all experimental groups grew mold) we all learned a lot about cancer and are determined to continue in the fight against cancer.
Shared by Sydika McKissic, a Ph.D. candidate in Vanderbilt's Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology and 7th grade Science Teaching Fellow at John Trotwood Moore Middle School through the Scientist in the Classroom Partnerships.
If you're a social networking fan that Google Plus +1s and/or Facebook Likes different items on the web, make sure to press the buttons that now appear on the news posts on the Center for Science Outreach's website so you can point out stories of note to your friends!
On September 16, first graders at Hattie Cotton Elementary School learned about using different standard units to measure playground equipment. With popsicle sticks, sponge noodles, spoons, and felt wires in hand, students discovered that when measuring the same objects in the playground they get varied results.
Students were divided in groups according to the different standard units and were each given a scientific task. The students learned team building skills, as each group was responsible for developing a hypothesis for the measurement before actually measuring each object. Students also learned the importance of trial and error, as some standard units are harder to use for measuring than others. Specifically, Mrs. Wesby's class discovered alternative ways to measure the circle wheel on the playground when using spoons.
The students and teachers were very eager to do real science with things that they can relate to and are familiar with. We can do science anywhere!
Shared by Janina Jeff, a Ph.D. candidate in Vanderbilt's Center for Human Genetics Research and 1st Grade Science Teaching Fellow at Hattie Cotton Elementary School
On August 24, Nashville's WSMV Channel 4 highlighted the Scientist in the Classroom Partnership's (SCP) first foray into Metropolitan Nashville Public School's (MNPS) elementary schools with a story about Leah Potter, a Vanderbilt doctoral student in molecular physiology and biophysics working with Hattie Cotton Elementary School's second grade classes.var so = new SWFObject('http://www.vanderbilt.edu/assets/flash/vucast_player.swf','mpl','426','240','9'); so.addParam('allowscriptaccess','always'); so.addParam('allowfullscreen','true'); so.addParam('flashvars','&file=rtmp://flash.its.vanderbilt.edu/cso/2011-08-24_SCP_on_WSMV.flv&autostart=false&image=http://www.scienceoutreach.org/sites/scienceoutreach.org/files/pictures/news/2011-08-24_SCP-WSMV.jpg&fullscreen=true&stretching=fill'); so.write('player20110827');
Hattie Cotton Elementary School is a part of the Stratford Cluster of schools which has a focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Hattie Cotton students will attend Bailey and Litton Middle Schools where they will also have scientists from the SCP program in their science classrooms. Once they reach Stratford High School, the Academy of Science and Engineering will further their STEM education with programs like the Center for Science Outreach's Interdisciplinary Science and Research program.
In addition to Ms. Potter, this year the SCP program has three other Vanderbilt doctoral students at Hattie Cotton - Janina Jeff, interdisciplinary materials science; Laura Poff, transportation engineering; and Lauren Palladino, astrophysics - as well as graduate students, doctoral students, and postdoctoral fellows from Vanderbilt University, Fisk University, and Tennessee State University at Antioch, Bailey, DuPont-Tyler, Litton, Moore, and Wright Middle Schools, and Hillsboro and Stratford High Schools.
Hattie Cotton Elementary School is the new science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) magnet in Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). Teachers are spending their summer in professional development sessions focusing on STEM subjects and incorporating STEM into all other areas of the curriculum.
Using Race to the Top funding awarded to the state of Tennessee and a Tennessee Department of Education grant awarded to MNPS, Hattie Cotton Elementary School and the Scientist in the Classroom Partnership (SCP) program have teamed up to bring Vanderbilt University scientists into the elementary classroom one day per week for the 2011-2012 school year helping to gear-up the new curriculum.
Teachers in grades 1 through 4 have been assigned a scientist who will work with them to co-teach hands-on science lessons and help organize special science and engineering projects. Earlier in the summer, these classroom teachers and scientists spent four days in the Scientist in the Classroom Partnership Workshop to establish a working relationship, plan lessons and activities, and hone classroom management and teaching skills.
In July, the teaching teams met again to share their areas of expertise with each other. Focusing on effective instructional strategies and techniques for teaching science, scientists and teachers worked together to bring the scientific community into the learning community.
On Tuesday, July 12, Hattie Cotton faculty and Vanderbilt scientists met at the Martin Professional Development Center to explore teaching inquiry to elementary-aged students. Presented by Jeannie Tuschl, SCP Program Coordinator, in collaboration with the Hattie Cotton scientists, the Inquiry Workshop is based on the Inquiry Institute at the Exploratorium in San Francisco.
All subjects can benefit from a hands-on, inquiry approach, an approach that elementary students developed long ago when they played in a sandbox. It's a natural tendency for students of all ages and it fits into all subjects. Inquiry instruction replicates what the scientists do in their labs at Vanderbilt University. On top of that, it's just plain fun and creates a memory for students, resulting in more durable learning.
"The purpose of the workshop is to clarify the nature of hands-on and inquiry-based instruction," Ms. Tuschl said. "Scientists will lead the teachers in conducting three different kinds of inquiry labs to demonstrate how inquiry can be taught in the classroom."
It's all about hands-on learning not only for students but for teachers, as well. "Science professional development must be conducted in the same way the teachers are expected to teach when they return to the classroom. Therefore, any workshop must engage the teachers in hands-on activities as they learn the content or concepts they are expected to take back to the classroom," said Ms. Tuschl.
At Hattie Cotton Elementary School on Wednesday, July 13, teachers and scientists engaged in a session on effective questioning strategies to stimulate quality thinking in students. This session was collaboratively taught by Ms. Tuschl, an educator, and Ms. Julia Dobish, a recent Vanderbilt University graduate in Chemistry, using the teacher-scientist model developed by the Scientist in the Classroom Partnership program.
Once again, this session was conducted with a hands-on approach. Teachers performed a science lab as they identified higher order questions they could pose to students. "It's not enough to just ask students to explain what happened and why," Ms. Tuschl commented. "Teachers must identify questions that help students understand the 'big picture,' the ramifications of an experiment. Students need to see the relevance in every experiment. Even in a simple experiment such as mixing bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and vinegar, we can ask students to think of ways to harness the power in this reaction, thereby, encouraging creative and innovative thought processes."
"The teaching skills that both teachers and scientists gain by learning more about effective science instruction translate into effective instruction in all subjects. Effective questioning is not limited to science class. All subjects benefit from instructors who understand the power of questioning," Ms Tuschl said.
In addition to the comprehensive hands-on science workshops this summer, every teacher at Hattie Cotton Elementary School has been trained since January in the Engineering is Elementary (EiE) program which will serve as a key component of the Hattie Cotton curriculum in the fall. EiE professional development providers teamed up with Vanderbilt associate professor Stacy Klein-Gardner to provide training in biomedical engineering. The EiE program, created by the Museum of Science in Boston, fosters engineering and technological literacy to further promote interdisciplinary K-12 STEM learning. Hattie Cotton teachers have worked to create their own lesson plans for the engineering units that are appropriate for their students and incorporating resources available in the Nashville area.
Focusing on effective STEM instruction is expected to increased student learning at Hattie Cotton Elementary School. With scientists to share their expertise, teachers and students can anticipate a successful and rewarding school year.
Dr. Virginia Shepherd, Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach, established the SCP program in MNPS beginning in 2000. She secured a National Science Foundation GK-12 Graduate Teaching Fellow grant to partner educators in grades 5 through 12 with scientists at local universities. Due to the enormous success of the program in middle and high schools, the program is partnering scientists with elementary teachers for the first time this fall.
Ms. Jeannie Tuschl is an experienced educator with Metro Nashville Public Schools and has been coordinating the SCP for the past 7 years. During this time, she has initiated several programs to provide opportunities for scientists to reach out to the schools and the community through Family Science Nights, the Volunteer Scientist in the Classroom Partnership and Outreach to Inquisitive Students (OTIS), a program designed for middle school students who demonstrate a special interest in science. Initiated by the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach, these programs frequently include scientists from Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, Fisk University, and Vanderbilt University.
Ms. Julia Dobish is the Scientist-in-Residence working with K-6 teachers at Hattie Cotton Elementary and Bailey Middle School, the new STEM magnet school serving grades 5 through 8, to assist teachers as they incorporate STEM into the curriculum. Ms. Dobish has participated in the Scientist in the Classroom Partnership for the past two years at Croft Middle School where she taught science one day per week in an 8th grade classroom.
Participating Hattie Cotton Elementary School teachers and scientists include:
- 1st Grade
- Teachers: Jane Esslinger, Mary Jo Evans, Heather Rantanen, Lori Stratton, Tanish Wesby, and Kim Greggs (Life Skills class)
- Fellow: Janina Jeff, Human Genetics
- 2nd Grade
- Teachers: Andrea Beeman, Kathy Johnston, Kate Sisk, and Sonya Sweeney
- Fellow: Leah Potter, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
- 3rd Grade
- Teachers: Nicole DeGuira, Rebecca Fuller (ELL class), Kimberly Head-Trotter, and Camilla Mallicot
- Fellow: Laura Poff, Civil and Environmental Engineering
- 4th Grade
- Teachers: Tanya Dixon-Fields, Greta Knudson, and Chalana Pitts
- Fellow: Lauren Palladino, Physics and Astronomy
Science Teaching Fellows (STFs) and partner teachers from the Scientist in the Classroom Partnership gathered at the Martin Professional Development Center on May 10 to celebrate the end of a successful school year. Teachers and scientists reflected upon the day they met almost a year ago and compared it to their close relationship after a year of commadarie in the science classroom. Each team developed and maintained a productive partnership to enhance the classroom and the science instruction.
Teachers presented a memory book to their partner scientists consisting of messages written by their students along with illustrations depicting favorite labs or a portrait of the scientist. Each teacher thanked the partner STF for their role in creating an exciting learning environment for students. Teachers related their experiences with a scientist in their classroom stating:
- "Having a STF in the classroom made it the best year of my teaching career";
- "The students really looked forward to the day the scientist was in the classroom";
- "The students expected an exciting day because the scientist would bring cool experiments to class"; and
- "The scientist was a natural teacher. The students were memorized by the lessons."
STFs thanked the teachers for all they learned though their experiences in the classroom. Fellows agreed they learned:
- The importance of being patient;
- How difficult is to be an effective teacher;
- To remain calm when experiments don’t work the first time;
- How to feel confident speaking in front of a group;
- To admire the skills teachers possess that help them be successful; and
- More about myself.
Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College, and Fisk University interested in teaching science in local public schools one day per week are encouraged to apply to for a Scientist in the Classroom Partnership.
The program, which pays $7,000 for the year, pairs a science teacher with the graduate student or postdoctoral fellow to team teach hands-on science lessons each week throughout the school year, helping build understanding and interest in science among students. The program also helps the graduate student/postdoctoral fellow build confidence in sharing his or her research with the general public and gain experience in leading a class. To prepare for the school year, the partners will work together during a summer workshop in June.
For more information and to download an application, visit the Scientist in the Classroom Partnership website.
The Center for Science Outreach is the subject of the cover story in this month's Vanderbilt View. Take a look at the story on their website or pick up a copy around campus!
By guest author Madelyn Reyes, East Literature Magnet Middle School 8th grader
The Family Science Night opened with a short talk from the PTSO President. Afterwards there was pizza and drinks as well as snacks. Then, everyone headed off in different directions to rooms labeled Elephant Snot, Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream, Electromagnetism, Slime, Star Lab and many more activities featuring scientists from Vanderbilt University.
We learned how to make ice cream with liquid nitrogen. In the Elephant Snot demonstration, we learned that a catalyst is a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected. The scientist with an electromagnet explained how a magnetic field works. In one room, we could make slime out of glue, borax, and food coloring. In another room, we found out how they use computers to find new drugs.
By 6:30 the auditorium was opened and everyone headed in to see the 8th graders science fair projects. The highlights of the room were a mouse in a maze and a hovercraft made by 8th graders.
To complete the evening, a scientist from Tennessee State University brought a live chicken and chicks that were not yet fully developed. There was also an inflatable planetarium or Star Lab. We all crawled into the planetarium for a show about the night sky. We learned how to find the North Star, among other things.
By 8 o'clock the evening had come to a conclusion and everyone went home. Eighth grade teacher, Mr. Josh Cooper, organized the event. We all had a great time and learned many new things, thanks to Mr. Cooper.
You should have been there, it was way fun!
The director of the Center for Science Outreach, Virginia Shepherd is highlighted in this quarter's Vanderbilt Magazine. The magazine is sent to alumni of Vanderbilt University.
Shepherd's profile, "Heart of a Champion," shares the story of how she has spent the past twenty years changing the lives of students and how science is taught in our schools.
On November 9, 2010, the Scientist in the Classroom Partnership Program held its fall workshop for science teaching fellows (STFs) and their partner teachers. At the workshop, STFs Anna Cummings at the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt, Jenifer Lawrie at Bailey Middle School, and Kimberly Mulligan at Stratford High School each delivered a 20-minute presentation on a 7th grade level explaining their current research.
Jenifer Lawrie led the group in dissecting cows’ eyes. Scientist-teacher teams got a close-up look at the anatomy of an eye to increase the understanding of how the eye functions. Ms. Lawrie plans to demonstrate the cow eye dissection in Panthea Bryant-Jones’s 8th grade classes at Bailey Middle School later this month.
The featured guest speaker was Aaron Deter-Wolf, an archaeologist with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Division of Archaeology. The spellbinding presentation provided an overview of archaeological sites in Middle Tennessee. Archaeologists study prehistoric and historic human remains. Tennessee has a long history of human occupation going back 12,000 years ago to the Paleo-Indians. Most recently, the May 2010 flood in Nashville eroded the banks of the Cumberland River exposing dozens of Native American grave sites. Even though it is illegal in Tennessee to disturb grave sites, looters quickly moved in to unearth artifacts before archaeologist could survey, record and preserve the human history present in the numerous sites along the river.
Following the workshop, Andrea Hawkins, a partner teacher at Head Middle Magnet School, shared, "We had an excellent lab this week! I have gained a new insight as it relates to the history of Tennessee. We are studying fossils in class and used many of the facts we learned from Mr. Aaron Deter-Wolf in our presentation to the students."
Hawkins' STF, Oleg Kovtun, was equally impressed with Mr. Deter-Wolf's presentation and was excited to share the information with the class. He explained, "We made cupcake fossils with chocolate batter to represent soil and used huge dried cherries, slivered almonds, and dry pinto beans. The students had to locate the fossils by making quarter slices and determine the relative age of the fossil using rulers."
Bailey Middle School has a new five senses garden! Bailey's garden was initiated to promote and foster inquiry- and project-based learning. In conjunction with Stratford High School's vision of becoming the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) magnet cluster and with the help of Sharon Braden, principal of Bailey Middle School; Mr. Coleman, owner of Coleman's Home Improvement and Landscaping; the Bailey Middle School faculty; the Center for Science Outreach at Vanderbilt University; donations from Lowe's and Walmart; and the hard work of students, the garden that started as a dream has become a reality.
Research has shown that the variety and richness of natural settings contribute significantly to the physical, cognitive, and emotional development of children. Here at Bailey, our five senses garden will promote and encourage all students' learning by providing a natural setting as an enhanced learning environment offering opportunities for interdisciplinary lessons at all grade levels.
Submitted by Panthea Bryant-Jones, Bailey Middle School 8th grade science teacher and Scientist-in-the-Classroom Partnerships partner teacher.