Both Dr. Stone and Dr. Phillips note: “Our courses with a service-learning component often have a higher pass rate and students’ perception of their own learning is also higher in these courses. Additionally, we find that service learning breaks down barriers that may prevent students from learning about science or exploring careers in the sciences.”
A Team Approach
CSU Stanislaus students enrolled in Biochemistry I, under the direction of Dr. Stone, and Chemistry in the Elementary Classroom, under the direction of Dr. Phillips, visit several Turlock elementary schools to engage younger students in developing an interest in science. During these projects, CSU Stanislaus students work in small groups to design science lessons for K-6 students. The science activities led by the university students connect California K-6 content standards with simple chemistry experiments using accessible household products.
This semester, Turlock elementary students learned how to identify a household powder based on how it reacts with other substances. Other students learned how cleaning pennies involves chemical reactions. Previous experiments have demonstrated static electricity with balloons, discovering the connection between art and chemistry with “Magic Paper,” or watching how molecules in an ink spot run up moistened paper while other molecules stay in place in the “Racing Ink” game.
“As a scientist and university professor, I have always been disheartened by the burgeoning problem in the United States of scientific ignorance and a pervasive fear of science. While there are no easy solutions, I have tried to help address this problem in our local community through service-learning activities in our elementary school classrooms. As a result, the feedback from both the university students and elementary school students and teachers has been extremely positive. The university students get first-hand experience doing science with youngsters, and the schoolchildren get energized about science.” – Dr. Shane Phillips, CSU Stanislaus
“Students have to work in a group and think creatively—what will be fun for kids and also teach them science? They have to figure out how to write directions for others to follow. My students are sharpening their critical thinking skills, as well as improving their written communication skills. In addition to doing science experiments in the classroom, the elementary students get to meet and interact with college students. All of my students give a brief introduction about their future plans. I hope this helps to inspire the elementary students to go to college.” – Dr. Koni Stone, CSU Stanislaus