by Christopher T. Jones ACS Conference Spring 2006
The Risk • Here are some common reasons community outreach is not integrated into chemistry courses. • It could be a time-consuming process. • It may appear to have little impact. • It will cost money I don’t have. • It is more than I can handle on my own.
An Example - Background • At the University of Illinois, our student affiliates chapter of ACS had an ongoing National Chemistry Week project where we went out to local elementary schools. • Our SA-ACS chapter had large numbers of students willing to come for pizza and chemistry demos, but only a small core willing to assist with outreach on their on time. • By changing the way we contacted schools, the number of classrooms we were going to dramatically increased.
An Example - Background • We also had an Honors program in which students in general chemistry could get Honors credit by doing an extra project. • This had typically been to write a 5-page paper on a designated chemistry topic. • I don’t like reading student papers. • Students do not like writing papers. • This rarely increases student enthusiasm for chemistry which is one of my course goals.
An Example – The Solution • My solution was to make the Honors project be participation in National Chemistry Week. • I asked other faculty facing the same issue if they wanted their students to participate. Most agreed. • Some faculty later joined me in contacting the schools and planning the event. • The core SA-ACS members organized the training sessions.
An Example - Outcomes • The result was that I oversaw the project with less time than I would have spent reading and commenting on students’ 5-page papers. • We increased the number of elementary school classrooms visited from about 20 to about 100. • Our chemistry students had fun doing a project they will always remember. • The University of Illinois gained credit for exposing kids to science at an early age. • The project cost was less than the cost of buying pizza for 150 students.
Another Example - Background • When I first came to Brewton-Parker, the main outreach was weekly tutoring that was done primarily by faculty. • Two hours a week with little student involvement did not meet my goals. • The local elementary school principal was not enthusiastic about college students coming to his school on a regular basis. • Other schools are 15-20 miles away.
Another Example - Background • Many Pre-Med students are more likely to become teachers than doctors. • I wanted to involve ALL students in chemistry projects that reinforce some topic. • I wanted the project to be “hands-on” but safe. • The director of the Heart of Georgia Youth Science & Technology Center needed to show that their programs impact our area.
Another Example - Background • The college set its sights on increasing enrollment in math and science from local students. • BPC’s Education Division needed more opportunities to expose Math Education and Science Education majors to practical teaching venues.
Another Example – The Solution • My solution was to propose that we hold a Math & Science Festival where kids, parents, and teachers participate in hands-on projects one Saturday each semester. • All of my students pick a hands-on chemistry project, design their experiment, create a poster, write a 1-2 page report designed to be used by teachers in the classroom, and a page or less evaluation of their experience.
Another Example - Outcomes • My students practice their projects during one of our 10 labs, so all the students see their classmates’ projects. • We have over 100 kids from a 75 mile radius attend the event with their parents, along with about a dozen or more local teachers.
Another Example - Outcomes • While my students typically make up half of the hands-on projects, our Education Division handles another third of the students. The rest of the projects are from other faculty or local teachers. • BPC now has over a hundred potential science and math majors visiting campus each semester.
Another Example - Outcomes • Several anonymous donors contribute toward outreach activities each year to fund the Math & Science Festival, an annual Rocket Blast-off, and an annual Astronomy day. • Our partnership with the Heart of Georgia Youth Science & Technology Center has been their most successful project in this area.
My Advice • So what have I learned the hard way that can make life easier for you?
Make Life Easy for Yourself • Pick an approach that makes life easy on you. • Plan it so that your goals are accomplished. • Organize it within your limits. • Coordinate it so that you maximize the number of people who can help you.
Finding Your Path Determine Your Goals Set Your Limits Partner for Impact
Determine what you would like to accomplish by taking on the project. Who will it benefit and how? Yourself Students Department The institution The community Local ACS Determine Your Goals
Set Your Limits • How much time can you spend? • How much will it cost? • How much lecture/lab time can be devoted to the project? • Is it easier to send your students out or have your audience come to you? • How often will the event occur?
Partner for Impact • Do not do it alone. • Do not do it alone! • Do not do it alone!!!
Partner for Impact • Integrate the project into your course since students are your most valuable asset and the main reason for doing the project. • Identify two or three like-minded colleagues, and see if they would consider assisting with some part of the project.
Partner for Impact • Look outside of chemistry for help. • Other science and math folks aren’t that bad! • Look to your education department for help since most programs require outreach like this of their students. • Look to your local ACS chapter. • Look to the regional office and local school districts. • Look to your institution’s extension office.
Partner for Impact • Ask your department or institution for assistance for a small amount of money. • Show them what you accomplish, and ask for more.
Classroom Integration • Build the requirement into the course syllabus. No volunteers! • Give a detailed break down of what is required up front. • Motivate students and show them your excitement for the project. • Reinforce chemistry topics learned from their projects in class. • Get feedback from students so things will be easier next time.
Ideas • Weekly tutoring • A Saturday event once a semester at your institution • One week of sending students out to perform demos • Adopting a class for the semester in which a variety of projects are planned
More Ideas • Let schools pick from a list of demos or hands-on projects that they can schedule any Friday afternoon. • Host science camp for kids in the summer or during the district’s spring break. • Have students create science kits for teachers to check out with all the required supplies and lesson ideas.
Conclusions • You choose lab experiments to be accomplished in limited time, with limited resources, that still meet your course learning objectives. • Obviously, hands-on lab experience is crucial in learning chemistry, so even if it has the same obstacles (time, money, impact, overwhelming commitment), it still warrants inclusion in the learning process. • Community outreach is no different. So, start planning what you can do in your community at your institution with your students.
So Remember Determine Your Goals Set Your Limits Partner for Impact
Acknowledgements The University of Illinois • Steve Zumdahl, Susan Zumdahl, Angie Cannon, Roxy Wilson, Christine Yerkes, Tom Hummel, Don DeDoste, Jennifer Firestine, Carolyn Schick, Craig Gerken Brewton-Parker • David McMillin, Jon Shuman, Ann Calhoun, Forrest Rich, Marvin McClendon, Javad Zadeh, Mariam George, Margaret Haines, Sherra Durden, Norma Harper, Skye Jordan • My students, who think I’m a bit crazy, but have joyfully participated in outreach over the years