University of Alabama instructor Jeanna Yates leads a summer outreach program to raise awareness of environmental issues and provide a strong science foundation to local K-12 students through hands-on science experiments. With a goal of increasing the love of science in local K-12 students, this program, founded in 2008, originally served 135 students and now typically serves over 1000 students annually. These efforts help keep kids active and engaged in educational activities, while bringing those activities out of the classroom and into a more interactive environment. Studies show that providing young children a strong science foundation results in higher achievement in middle and high school, and provides them with more career opportunities in science and technology fields.
Prior to the pandemic the program had already garnished recognition, receiving The University of Alabama Council on Community-Based Partnerships Excellence in Community Affairs Award for Outstanding Faculty/Staff-Initiated Engagement Effort. However, the program took on new challenges, as well as importance, in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. This necessitated creativity on the part of the coordinators and UA student leaders, as well as the K-12 student participants. The University of Alabama biology majors taught hands-on STEM lessons virtually to children of essential workers using Zoom during the COVID-19 Pandemic. A video explaining the outreach program can be found at the following link: https://vimeo.com/419964951.
“The 14 UA biology majors did such an outstanding job creating and teaching the ‘Zoom’ hands-on lessons to these K-12 students,” said Yates. Student participants included the Boys & Girls Clubs of West Alabama, Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama, Children’s Hands-on Museum (CHOM) members, and UA Arboretum members. Supplies were delivered by Amazon to the UA students’ homes and to the Boys & Girls Clubs of West Alabama students, while supply lists were made known on the CHOM and UA Arboretum websites so that parents could buy those supplies. The UA students taught the lessons and performed the hands-on experiments in real-time Zoom sessions, along with making teaching videos. Some of the exciting topics featured included edible DNA, zoology, microscopes, and plant biology.
The lesson plans are publicly available and open source for teachers and parents to utilize, and can be found here: https://cjyates.people.ua.edu/bsc-393-lesson-plans.html