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Students are science superheroes to 5th-grade friends [+VIDEO]

Using superheroes as an educational tool, an MTSU honors science class brought the STEM Extravaganza to Bellwood Discovery School for the second year.

The 14-member Contemporary Issues in Science honors class for non-science majors promoted science and sustainability to 80 Discovery School fifth-graders April 14. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Class members formed four groups to showcase specific STEM concepts in a fun, hands-on way. The groups included:

  • “Batman and friends from Gotham City,” who used liquid nitrogen to make ice cream.
  • “The Avengers,” who studied ultraviolet radiation.
  • “The Powder Prism Boys,” who checked out light and color.
  • “The X-Men,” “Spider-Man” and other superheroes, who studied the Science of Polymers — plastics, DNA and protein.
MTSU sophomore Andrew Gilliam, left, a film and video production major, leads a “Science of Polymers” group exercise with Bellwood Discovery School fifth-graders April 14. Nash Rutledge, center left, appears surprised at his experiment’s results as Chloe Northcutt looks on and Esten Cook works on his project. (MTSU photos by Randy Weiler)

MTSU sophomore Andrew Gilliam, left, a film and video production major, leads a “Science of Polymers” group exercise with Bellwood Discovery School fifth-graders April 14. Nash Rutledge, center left, appears surprised at his experiment’s results as Chloe Northcutt looks on and Esten Cook works on his project. (MTSU photos by Randy Weiler)

Discovery School student Henry Vance, 10, said the entire session by the MTSU class was “pretty cool.”

“I like the liquid nitrogen,” he added. “They showed us how to make ice cream. It was amazing. And I liked how they had a superhero theme.”

Teacher Lora Taylor said she loved how the class was “hands-on and an experience all of my kids can share together.”

“Back in the day, you taught skills,” Taylor added. “Now, you start with an experience they all share and you know they all have it, and you build on the experience. If you do something with them, they all have the same experience.”

From the visit, Taylor became reacquainted with former Bellwood student Marilin Kelley, a freshman math major from Murfreesboro.

“We’re showing these kids all the different things that makes science amazing in life and they can be science superheroes every day,” Kelley said.

Dr. Judith Iriarte-Gross, who also serves as director of MTSU’s Women in STEM Center, said her class members “get to choose their own projects. However, the main focus is on a sustainable planet.”

“One of my goals is to have our students who are non-science majors be able to understand and communicate science,” Iriarte-Gross added. “As an experiential learning project, we worked all semester to develop demonstrations on different scientific concepts that we present to local schools.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

Discovery School fifth-grader Kate Wofford, left, tests the ultraviolet reading on her sunglasses as MTSU sophomore music business major Hayley Gannon, a member of the Contemporary Issues in Science class, checks the level April 14.

Discovery School fifth-grader Kate Wofford, left, tests the ultraviolet reading on her sunglasses as MTSU sophomore music business major Hayley Gannon, a member of the Contemporary Issues in Science class, checks the level April 14.

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