Thursday, July 14, 2011

College continues summer science program for local teachers, children

This summer, a group of Randolph College professors and students continued the College’s efforts to help elementary and middle school teachers better instruct students in the sciences. Now in its third year, the program is designed to provide resources and teaching methods to local educators.

The Randolph students and professors provided a weeklong institute for about 60 Lynchburg-area teachers, followed by a science camp for children at the Jubilee Family Development Center in Lynchburg.

The program showed the teachers and students that there is more to science than lab coats, beakers, diagrams, and chemical symbols, said Meredith Humphreys ’12.

“Science can be fun,” she said. “It’s not just what you see in the classroom.”

Humphreys said there is a shortage of scientists in America because young people are not as interested in the subject. The summer science program aims to excite an interest in science. It also collects data to measure whether hands-on experiments improve science education and promote an interest in science.

Humphreys, a curricular studies major, worked with Woyni Teklay ’13, Qi Zhang ’13, and Randolph College professors Tatiana Gilstrap, Peter Sheldon, and Peggy Schimmoeller.

During the teaching institute, they taught teachers various experiments that could be used to teach principles of science to children. During the weeklong science camp, they helped six of the local teachers lead children in experiments with bubbles, electricity, chemical reactions, and more

The teachers in the institute and the students in the science camp completed the Draw-A-Scientist Test, which measures attitudes toward science by examining someone’s drawing of a scientist and looking for signs of stereotypes, such as goggles and lab coats.

The results of this test showed that participants had fewer stereotypes after the program, showing that hands-on science experiments can change perceptions about science.

The Randolph students filmed the experiments to provide content for a website that provides science experiment ideas and lesson plans for elementary and middle school teachers.

The program was funded by a $140,000 grant from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and by the College’s Summer Research Program.