Kindergarten Science Visits Take Graduate Students to Elementary School

Kindergarten children matched “fur coats” to animals when graduate student Kat Bland visited to talk about science.

Girls Launch!, a program initiated by Communicating Science “graduate” Caitlin Colleary last fall and supported by the Center for Communicating Science, has resulted in half a dozen visits to Eastern Elementary School in Giles County this year. Center associate director Carrie Kroehler and psychology research assistant professor Vanessa Diaz have provided faculty support to the graduate students presenting their research to the sixty children in the kindergarten classes at Eastern.

Each student or pair of students engages with three different classrooms of kindergarten children, spending about two hours on the visit.

November’s visit featured Caitlin Colleary and bones both new and old, as she talked to the kindergartners about teeth, how different kinds of teeth are good for different purposes, and what scientists can learn from fossils.

December saw communicating science student Kat Bland passing out pieces of (fake) animal skins to the children as she helped them think about what animals are covered with and how that helps them live in different environments.

The psychology department pitched in for January’s visit, with Vanessa Diaz and grad student Tyler McFayden helping the children make “mindfulness jars” to introduce them to the idea that they can help themselves calm down when they are upset.

In February, communicating science “graduate” Ellen Garcia helped the children learn about the concept of microscopic. What does it mean for something to be so small our eyes can’t see it without help?

The psychology department was back for March’s visit, with Madeline Bruce and Amelia Tankersley talking to the kids about feelings, how our faces and voices show our feelings, and what “feelings scientists” do.

April featured communicating science student Vanessa Guerra telling the children a tale about Planet Earth, who is not feeling too well these days. All the children volunteered to be superheroes to save Planet Earth through recycling, growing their own food, walking, and riding their bicycles.

“The kids have loved every visit,” one of the kindergarten teachers commented during a recent visit. “They’ve really had a lot of fun!”

Colleary started the project with the hope that seeing women scientists would let 5-year-olds know that women can be scientists. It may be working: During one of our visits, a little girl hugged the presenter and said, “I want to be YOU when I grow up!”

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