Graduate Fellows and Environmental Biology in K-12 Schools
University of Minnesota
Teams of fellows work in 4 inner-city schools—participating in classroom activities, assisting teachers with content by developing extensions to lessons, and conducting a science club for groups of 12-20 students at each school. Fellows develop activities for science club members that include: 1) group demonstrations and experiments such as separation of pigments in leaves; and 2) interactive activities such as building large scale models of insects. While graduate students are able to share their expertise in classrooms, science clubs are more informal “learning spaces.” They are unrestricted by curricula and provide an excellent forum for students to investigate their own ideas and topics that would not normally be available in school. Students have brainstormed ideas for research projects and learned to design experiments to test their hypotheses and interpret their results. Thus far, clubs have been project-based with students conducting natural history projects, creating public education exhibits, or conducting a series of field trips to local natural areas, museums and zoos. The skills that fellows have shared with students and teachers have facilitated novel approaches to teaching some concepts. Fellows have learned how to make their research accessible to a non-science audience, specifically students early in their own scientific careers. All the fellows have shared their expertise with their school communities and cultivated an appreciation for science and their specific disciplines in their young charges.