Snail Eggs, Blood Splatter, and ISR: A Typical Summer Day

Strong relationships with local academy partners is the key to building effective business engagement in our high schools. The Academies of Nashville provide students with meaningful, hands-on learning in context through unique partnerships with local businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. The Teacher Team Externship Program gives teachers an opportunity to have a real-world professional experience at a host organization to develop a project-based curriculum that gives students industry exposure and applied learning. Teachers from Stratford STEM Magnet High School had the opportunity to have an externship with their business partner, the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach. 

IMAG0356This fun and fascinating experience began at Isaac Litton Middle School where the teachers learned background information on the program “Scientist in the Classroom.”  This reiterated the importance of bringing real world scientists into the classroom enabling teachers to make the classroom experience more applicable to the real world while at the same time enabling real world scientists to learn skills assisting them in becoming better teachers of their craft.  After this meeting, the teachers met a group of students from Hillsboro High School at Richland Creek to participate in environmental sampling.  Although we weren’t all dressed for outdoor activities, everyone made the best of it; Kathy L. was an expert discoverer of snail eggs.   In addition, the students from Hillsboro were very impressive.  The moment they arrived at the creek, they went to work; it was very clear that these students knew what to do, how to do it, and the importance of documentation.  When we left the creek, the teachers then met at Vanderbilt for an across campus walk in the blazing heat, but it was well worth it.  We had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with instructors and students from the School of Science and Math at Vanderbilt, and this was fantastic.  As students were working on the finishing details of their projects, the teachers were able to ask questions to provide them an opportunity to practice their presentations which were the next day.  Many appreciated this opportunity because they have been working on these projects for months.  Our favorite project was the autonomous robot that sprayed Luminal and detected chemiluminescence.  We finished this day with a discussion panel with Vanderbilt professors and leaders of Interdisciplinary Science and Research, where we discussed trends in science education and how it has changed over time.

IMAG0358The second day was equally exciting as we practiced engaging students in science with “hands on” activities.  Our first activity was making a rocket out of a straw.  Some of us were eager and quick with ideas of how to start while others of us needed the use of NASA and Google.  We then demonstrated the success or failure of our rockets by projecting them at a 45 degree angle through the air.  Next, we participated in various blood splatter activities which included blood splatter with a fan, blood splatter from various heights, blood splatter while walking, and then blood transfer.  The highlight of this activity was the unplanned blood splatter in stabbing. In all of the activities, we documented the size, shape, and characteristics of the blood splatter. Finally, we ended the day with a lesson on human behavior.  We began this activity by choosing between sets of two people who we would like to live beside.  We were given pictures of the person, his/her hobbies, and his/her occupation.  It took about three sets for us to figure out all of the people were famous serial killers.  This was a great day that gave the teachers who aren’t in the Interdisciplinary Science and Research, or ISR, classes an opportunity to really understand ISR, which provided a great foundation for our next day.

The third and fourth day of our externship were spent brainstorming, discussing, and planning the best ways to incorporate a new ISR lesson with a focus on the freshman class.  We began by looking at all of the lesson units for all of the ISR classes, and we decided to offer something unlike the others already available.  We chose a lesson on agricultural science with a focus on growing food for the community.  The students will have an opportunity to plant seeds, grow them, document changes during growth, create graphs, create marketing and business plans, and ultimately sell their produce at Stratford STEM Magnet High School.  This externship was a great experience, and the students at Stratford STEM Magnet are going to love this unit!!