Hello Jerry, I enjoyed meeting you and your wife a couple of weeks ago. Thanks so much for stopping by when you were visiting DC. It was great to learn about your program and a little embarassing that I didn't know about you because you and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Local Section have been at this since the pilot of Kids & Chemistry in 1993! I did look you guys up and found that the data about the attitudes of kids who participated in the program vs control classes all came from your group. The kids you visited definitely had better attitudes about chemistry and planned to take science more than the kids in the control classes.
One thing that I really like about you and your group is that you go into the schools several times a year and make a very personal connection with the teachers and students. Long after your grandchildren have moved up and out of the elementary schools, you are still there teaching science lessons to the kids. You use household materials to keep your costs down, but also to show teachers that they can do science activities with their students. You have borrowed ideas from some of the early Kids & Chemistry kits, I'm thinking Pirate Pete here, and best of all modified them so that they best suit the students' needs. You even train other science professionals to teach science lessons. You are awesome!
I'm always impressed when I learn about the efforts of Kids & Chemistry volunteers. One thing that I told you when I met you that I really want everyone to know is that it is very difficult for me to find out about the volunteer work that chemical professionals do to improve science education. It's rarely put in the annual reports. You work with the kids because you love it, not because you want recognition from your local section or ACS. I'd like to change something starting now...I want chemistry professionals to feel that their work is more than just a personal favor for a local school, it's also part of a larger American Chemical Society effort to help elementary and middle school students learn and enjoy science.What you do for teachers and students is extremely valuable!
So please, respond to Jerry's post. I'd love to hear from you and I'm sure that other people are very curious to find out what you are up to. Please don't just limit yourself to the efforts of your local section. Tell us about those things you do personally, too. Tell us how you use your annual leave days (like I did last week) to be a guest presenter for a science class. Or how you, like Jerry have been running a Kids & Chemistry program for years. So...
What have you done to help kids learn and enjoy science?
All efforts, big or small, are huge in the eyes of the teachers kids you work with!
For those of you who don't know me (I think this includes just about everyone who might open this post and read it) I manage the Kids & Chemistry program here at ACS. I used to be an elementary teacher. When I taught second grade, the mother of one of my students purchased an ACS resource for me as a holiday gift. She told me that the science activities were developed by her professional organization...and everything they produce is good. That was a tremendous endorsement for me and I did the activities with my students with confidence that they would work and teach the concepts that I was required to cover in science. Her encouragement inspired me to do more hands-on science with my students and over the years, I saw the benefits of this. My students said that science was their favorite subject. Then, when I taught these same students again in fifth grade, I was surprised by how much they remembered, how much they still enjoyed science, and how high their test scores were. This ACS member really made a difference in the science education of my students and of course helped me learn science, too!
So now that I work with the Kids & Chemistry program, I can honestly say that I know from a teachers' perspective how valuable it is to have science professionals involved in science education. It can be as simple as introducing teachers to quality science resources, or more involved like teaching science lessons in school, planning field trip experiences for them at a university lab, helping a district or regional math-science collaborative review commercial science resources, being on a board reviewing the science education standards. There are many ways the expertise of science professionals can help to improve science education...and this is what Kids & Chemistry is all about.
I look forward to meeting you, finding out what you do, and possibly helping you with your plans to get involved. We do have kits that you can purchase or put together yourself. I'm happy to share my vendors with you and of course the pdf files are all online for free. The materials listed at the back of the presenter's guide will tell you what you need to put together each Kids & Chemistry kit. I can also help you refine your lesson so that it covers concepts in the curriculum for the gretest impact. My job is to give science professionals the tools they need to effectively help kids learn and love science. But....I have to know about you in order to help. You can always communicate with me through the ACS network or by e-mail directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Yes I coordinate and participate in Kids & Chemistry acitivites in my local section - Greater Houston Section. Last year we impacted about 7000 kids in the Houston area. My last activity for the school year was a "Magic in Chemistry" stage show for 700 kids at Travis Elementary in Baytown, Tx. This was one of the largest audiences I've ever done. Pamela Farmer was styled as "Gypsy Rose" and she assisted me. Here are a few pix:
That looks like a fantastic show. Thanks for the pictures. Do you do any hands-on programs with the kids, i.e. where the kids do the experiments?
Jerry, Why don't you tell everyone what you do? When I met you, I was very impressed with the activities you developed and the way the kids you work with grow up and years later remember science activities they did with Grandpa and Grandma Kersten.
Bob, no one reaches the number of students (more than 7000) you and your group do each year. We do have a couple of groups who have about the same number of volunteers (it's 120 or so, right?). I'm particularly impressed with the level of support your employeer gives to the program. I guess everything is big in Texas!
You and Jerry have something in common--you have both been involved in Kids & Chemsitry since the pilot in 1993. Did you ever meet each other in person?
I'm pretty sure I met Jerry early on maybe in meetings we had after the Pilot was wrapped up. Yes I have about 120 volunteers on my distribution. Without the Company support I get it would be a much smaller effort.
Thanks for your invitation to take a look at the Kids & Chemistry thread of the network. In a mere 5 minutes I learned of the impressive and inspiring work of Jerry and Bob. Gentlemen, will you be at the upcoming DC meeting? If so, I hope to meet you and hear more about your programs.
I have taught chemistry at Madison Area Technical College (a 2-year community/technical college) for almost twenty years and have been involved in outreach for the last 10. Three years ago I combined my vocation (chemistry) with my avocation (playwriting, which I now teach as well) and started an organization called Fusion Science Theater (FST). We do outreach shows that use theater to teach chemistry to elementary school audiences. For example, in 2006 we put on a one hour show called the Amazing Chemical Circus composed of three sets of demonstrations or "acts"-- spectral emissions, rates of combustion, and polymers. Each act is framed and guided by a question (Like, "What makes the biggest BOOM?" for the rates of combustion segment) so it is actually an investigation The questions are posed by host characters (a Ringmaster!) and answered by demonstrations performed by MATC chemistry faculty members. Each act culminates in an "Act It Out," where kids come to the stage to play the role of an atom or molecule in a physical dramatization of the underlying concept.
This first show was successful on all fronts-- enthusiastic audience, enthusiastic participants, realatively easy to produce, inexpensive, and evaluation data that showed that kids liked the show AND learned the concepts. So successful, in fact, that we were inspired to write a planning grant to NSF Informal Science Education division in 2007. We got the grant and have spent the last 2 years developing 2 short (10-30 minute) mobile shows that can be performed at libraries, family science nights, schools, museums, community centers, etc. These shows can be done by 2 people and follow the format we stumbled upon in the Chemical Circus-- one learning objective, inquiry-based structure, demonstrations, participatory "act it out". We embedded assessment right into the shows and again, the data was great. But the best news was that a student group from the University of Wisconsin (Students Participating in Chemical Education or SPICE) asked us if they could do a show in addition to the demo shows they traditionally do as outreach. We trained them in a one-day workshop and now they are doing the shows around Madison, WI with similar great results.
Sorry for rambling. Just wanted to share a bit about how theater can be a powerful tool for chemical education outreach.
Best to you,
Holly Walter Kerby