Translating MRSEC Faculty research into the Elementary Education Program

In November 2014, I was awarded a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) NSF Seed Grant. With the grant, I worked with MRSEC faculty to translate the research conducted in nano-technology into the K-6th grade science curriculum. Collaborating UNL faculty were Shireen Adenwalla (phase changes); Axel Enders (molecules); Stephen Ducharme (carbon based materials); Christian Binek (magnetoelectic material); Xiaoshan Xu (thin film materials); Xia Hong (graphene electronics); Peter Dowben (disease detection); and Kirill Belashchenko (magnetic materials).

The scientists helped identify important science concepts used to understand their research which was used to develop science clubs for a local Community Learning Center’s Summer Clubs. Lisa Fanning, Alice Buffett Middle School 5th & 6th grade science teacher & UNL doctoral candidate, and Christa Fischer, undergraduate elementary education major, worked to find appropriate nano-technology activities that best represented the MRSEC research. These activities would be explored by preservice elementary education majors as they participated in the elementary science methods course during the Summer 2015 semester.

The preservice teachers were tasked with translating nano-technology into appropriate science curriculum for the K-6th grade. The teachers would tell you this was initially a daunting experience. However, the more the class explored science content, inquiry practices and research the more each group were able to determine age appropriate, inquiry-based science lessons. The teachers were still unsure how the children would respond to their activities.

The final week of the course was held at the local CLC school with over 40 children present throughout club time. Children were excited about learning science, asked questions, and explored science while making connections to nano-technology. For the teachers, they were surprised by the children’s excitement.

The teachers were able to carry out science lessons connecting to nano-science that were successful. The definition of success varied amongst the teachers: conducting an inquiry lab, teaching science for the first time, engaging children, being ok with not knowing all the answers, and helping children understand the content. In addition, a number of the teachers recognized the importance of connecting the real-world to classroom learning. This is at the heart of the project –> contextualizing science.

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One thought on “Translating MRSEC Faculty research into the Elementary Education Program

  1. Pingback: Social Media to the Professional Setting | ElemenTS & ComP-OuNDS

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