Inspiring Young Minds: Future Scientists Visit AppState

“After your visit today, how many of you want to become scientists?” The question was met with a chorus of “Me”s and a majority of hands in the group going up. We’ll happily take that as an indicator of success for the first “science sampler” for elementary school students at AppState.

The guests were sixty 1st and 2nd grade students from Cove Creek Elementary School, lead by teachers Tiffany Reece, Meredith Boggs, Anne Donadio and Laura Johnson. The event was a collaboration between the science departments and the North Carolina Appalachian Collaborative for Higher Education office. It was organized by Tracey Tardiff from NCACHE and Marta Toran (Biology & Geology Depts.) with the help of numerous faculty members and student volunteers. The idea was to give students a glimpse into the science that takes place at AppState and a greater understanding of what scientists do.

The group first met with Dr. Andy Heckert at the Fred Webb Jr. Outdoor Geology Lab to learn about what geologists do and to explore the huge specimens in the rock garden, including the newest additions full of fossils that had just arrived.

The students also visited the Geology Teaching Museum where hands-on activities had been set up, including identification of rocks and digging for fossilized shark teeth. Thank you to Geology majors Daniel Gaspari, Drew Lindsey and Logan Howell for their awesome work with the kids! Understanding the physical properties of Earth materials including rocks and minerals is part of the 1st grade science curriculum (NCSCS 1.E.2).

The group then moved to the Biology Department in Rankin, where a sampler of science activities was set up (thanks to Debi Tibbett for helping coordinate the room). Representing the Department of Physics and Astronomy we had Dr. Tonya Coffey, who taught the kids how to use a microscope to study different samples. Dr. Coffey is very active in STEM education and runs the Appalachian Microscopy and Nanoscience Outreach program.

Another physicist, Dr. Leah Sherman and student Colleen Lasar, brought all sorts of cool gadgets to demonstrate sound waves. Understanding the relationship between sound and vibrating objects is part of the 2nd grade science curriculum (NCSCS 2.P.1).

Dr. Mike Hambourger helped coordinate some neat Chemistry demos, which were set up and ran by undergraduate Chemistry majors Christopher Boehlert and Daniel Starnes. The kids were mesmerized by the color changing reactions and the mysterious steam bubbles. Trying on the neon goggles was exciting in and of itself for most kids though!

Also representing the Department of Chemistry were students from the Forensic Science Club lead by Lauren Dubose, who showed students how dust and lift their own fingerprints.

Meteorology guru Dr. Ray Russell from Computer Science and also, showed students how a weather station works and helped them try infrared thermometers and other handheld weather instruments.

Thank you to Ginger Kelly from the Geography Department and Dr. Jenni Geib for loaning us meteorology equipment for the event. Understanding weather patterns is also part of the 2nd grade science curriculum (NCSCS 2.E.1).

The Biology section was full of exciting living and once-living specimens. Dr. Wayne Van Devender provided mammal study skins and skulls (among them a horse skull, beaver, mice, armadillo and a vicious looking badger) and Dr. Shea Tuberty brought over a live tarantula and king scorpion. Graduate student Lentz Henson was on hand to answer questions about the animals. A big thank you also to Monique Eckerd who sent over some live reptiles with expert Haley, including a live snake which was a big hit among students and teachers alike. There was also a wide variety of extravagant plants on display, all provided by Jerry Meyer from the Biology Dept. Greenhouse. Alyssa Teat from Dr. Neufeld’s lab was the resident plant expert for the event. Plants and animals are a big part of the 1st grade science curriculum (NCSCS 1.L.1., 1.L.2).

The excitement didn’t end in the morning. After pizza at the Student Union, students participated in a hands-on Chemistry activity called Lorna’s Sun Bottle, which was created by Sammuella Sigmon and Dale Wheeler from the Chemistry Department. With the help of student teachers and NCCACHE volunteers, the students completed the activity successfully and seemed to have a great time doing so. They proved to be exemplary listeners and conscientious scientists.

This science program was made possible through a collaborative effort between some dedicated ASU scientists, NCACHE staff and the teachers of Cove Creek School. Thanks everyone for helping to inspire these young minds!

Published: Mar 30, 2014 2:06pm