More About the TU-HHMI Science Academy

On a quarterly basis we will bring a maximum of 50 students (each) from Harris, Twain and Wheatley Middle Schools and 50 (combined) from Bonham and Hawthorne Academies to the Trinity University campus to engage them in hands-on science experiences appropriate designed to address the concepts in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for their grade level. Trinity faculty, science students (especially those pursuing teacher certification), an Academic Coordinator (Ms. Linda King), and the students’ teachers plan in advance the Friday experiences (consecutive Fridays each quarter).

The seventh graders work with either Trinity students or Trinity faculty in groups of 4-6 students per Trinity community member. The basic parameters of each investigation are worked out; however, instead of having a set of instructions with clearly defined steps, students are asked to think about the general problem, make a hypothesis and then design an experiment to test their hypothesis (with a rationale as to why it was worth testing). In this way, they work through a series of hypotheses and experiments, narrowing in on the answers to their initial questions. They take notes on their hypothesis, their experimental protocols and the results in their data notebooks. At the end of the day, seventh graders, their teachers, Trinity students and Trinity faculty gather in a lecture hall to hear presentations from the seventh graders about their results.

The first quarter – Chemistry. The material for the first quarter considers physics and chemistry, however the TU-HHMI Science Academy is focused principally on chemistry. Dr. Candace Coyle (Trinity University, Department of Chemistry) serves as the content specialist for this quarter. Students from Trinity University’s Chemistry Club and education students supported the activities. Middle school teachers asked their students what sorts of chemical questions they would like to investigate. Based on their responses, Dr. Coyle worked with the four most popular requests to develop investigative learning experiences:

1. How much sugar is in a can of soda?
2. Why do Mentos reach with Diet Coke?
3. Which protects us better form the sun -- sunclock or sunscreen?
4. Which toothpaste whitens teeth the best?

The preparation sheets/exploration guides for these experiments can be accessed by clicking on the number before each of the experiments above.

The second quarter – Earth Science. For this quarter, students spent the morning in the laboratory using specimens, geological maps, and Google Earth. In the afternoon, they boarded a bus to go to geological sites around San Antonio to gain field experience, measuring faults and sedimentation zones. Drs. Glenn Kroeger and Kathy Surpless (Trinity University, Department of Geosciences) serve as content specialists for this quarter. Students from Trinity University’s Geoscience Club and education students supported the activities. The exploration guides for these investigations can be accessed by clicking here.

The third quarter – Cellular and Organismal Biology. The content specialists for this quarter are Drs. Gabriella Rennebeck and Mark Brodl (Trinity University, Department of Biology). Students from βββ (the biology honor society), the pre-health club and the other med student club along with education students supported the activities. Seventh graders were queried about what biological problems they would like to investigate, and based on the four most popular responses Drs. Rennebeck and Brodl devised investigative learning expriences:

1. Temperature, Heart and Breathing Rates - Homeostasis
2. Ventilation and Temperature - Homeostasis
3. Achieving Balance. Effects of water, salt and sugar in your blood cells

The preparation sheets/exploration guides for these experiments can be accessed by clicking on the number before each of the experiments above.

The fourth quarter – Ecology and Astronomy. Students were bussed from their home schools to Bamberger Ranch, located approximately 7 miles northwest of Blanco, TX in the Texas Hill Country. The Ranch features major habitat restoration projects, a working cattle ranch, an ibex farm, streams, a lake, and an artificial bat cave. In addition, there are dormitories and dining facilities sufficient to support 50 students. Colleen Gardner, Executiver Director and education staffers at the Ranch and Drs. David Ribble and Kelly Lyons (Trinity University, Department of Biology) developed field projects that allowed students to contribute to long-term data collections at the Ranch. The exploration guides for these investigations can be accessed by clicking here (coming soon).

The TU-HHMI Program busses the student to the Trinity Campus and covers the cost of substitute teachers at the schools as necessary. At the end of the year, the TU-HHMI Program hosts a reception for the seventh graders, their parents, their teachers and Trinity faculty and students on the Trinity campus. Seventh graders work with their teachers to develop posters to report out on their favorite experiments in the Science Academy. At this celebration of the students’ work, parents are provided with information on college and meeting college costs. The goal is to help parents share in their child’s dream of a college education.

 

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