HILLSBOROUGH (Herald Sun) — Fourth-grade students at The Expedition School had the chance to create an electric circuit, experiment with bubbles and gas and create a catapult from a plastic spoon and clothespins — all thanks to a new fellows program at Duke University.
Sophomores from the Huang Fellows Program, administered by the Duke Initiative for Science and Society, teamed up to create age-appropriate science kits and lessons. Materials to complete each experiment were then donated to teachers at The Expedition School.
“There are science programs out there for teachers, but few of them are this hands-on and integrated,” said Scott Ellis, a teacher who got linked up with the fellows program through his fellowship at Duke’s TeachHouse. “I really think they’re onto something special here.”
Several of the Huang Fellows were on hand to walk students through the lessons they’d created, including Laura Naslund, who helped create the lesson on catapults.
Naslund said the lesson was interdisciplinary, focusing not only on the physics of the catapult but also on ethics, as students were encouraged to report their findings accurately, and environmental economics.
Naslund said she does environmental research, so she was excited to teach students about true cost and other important environmental principles.
“It’s been invaluable to get this training to learn how to communicate my research with people,” she said, adding that the fellowship “forced (her) to communicate with a broad audience — everyone from fourth graders to experts in their field.”
The fourth graders were soon to become experts in catapult-making.
Tucker Jones, 10, said he added a wooden craft stick to the bottom of his catapult “so this wouldn’t be all tipping and it would have a good surface.”
“The spoon is the main part, though,” he added as he placed a bead in the plastic spoon before launching it.
The team’s longest launch measured 214 centimeters, Tucker said.
“It’s been really cool to see what they pick up on,” Naslund said.
Naslund is part of the first class of the Huang Fellows Program. First-year Duke students in science-related fields are invited to apply, and 15 students are admitted to the summer program.
The students participate in lab work, seminars and activities, said Emiliachiscop Head, coordinator for academic programs at the Duke Initiative for Science and Society.
There is also a strong emphasis on leadership skills and community service, which is why the initiative donated 75 science kits to The Expedition School’s fourth grade classrooms.
This is the first phase of what Head hopes will grow to schools throughout Durham Public Schools. The initiative will continue donating a certain amount of science kits, which cost about $5 each, to schools each year. But the initiative hopes to donate the concepts behind the lessons to as many schools as possible.
Ellis said he sees potential for growth after seeing how successful the program was in his classroom.
“It’s been great to have the collaboration between the scientist at Duke and educators,” he said.
The application for the next round of Huang Fellows opened recently, Head said, and will remain open until Jan. 24.