New Lessons for High School Science Teachers
PHOTO: WILL KIRK
Making science more "palatable" for kids: Klazer (far right, glasses) with fellow
interns and participating Hopkins researchers.
Terry Klazer has been a science teacher for 37 years. But he’s still eager to explore new ideas to take back to his chemistry students at Bowie High School in Bowie, Md. That’s why a scorching August morning found him in the Bloomberg Center lab of Hopkins physics professor Daniel Reich, learning the ins and outs of lithography.
“Making microchips—it was an excellent experience. Something I’ve never done before,” Klazer said afterward. “We were dealing with nanotechnology, getting down to the microscopic level.” Klazer says he’ll draw on the information he learned to discuss electronic devices like the teen favorite iPod. “If you can hook these kids, give them something they can relate to, it makes [science] all that more palatable.”
That’s the impetus behind a week-long teacher internship, sponsored by Hopkins’ Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), which each summer brings half a dozen high school physics and chemistry teachers to the university to enhance their scientific knowledge, develop new classroom and lab projects, and make use of the center’s educational resources. The teacher interns spend their mornings in lectures with physics professors including Reich and Chia-Ling Chien, and Whiting School of Engineering professors Robert Cammarata and Peter Searson. In the afternoon, they hit the lab to gain firsthand experience in X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, and other nanotechnology applications, under the one-on-one tutelage of Hopkins graduate students.
The internship program is just one of several education outreach efforts sponsored by the MRSEC at Johns Hopkins, one of 26 such centers funded by the National Science Foundation. The NSF established the centers as a way of encouraging broad-ranging, interdisciplinary materials research — complex, cooperative work that wouldn’t be possible under traditional funding of individual research projects. Research at the Hopkins-based center focuses on nanostructures made from novel materials that exhibit magneto-electronic properties.
“I’ve been to a lot of seminars and workshops in the past, and I learned more from this one in four days than I sometimes do in two weeks,” says Joyce Reamy, who teaches honors and AP chemistry and physics at Calvert Hall in Baltimore County. She was thrilled to be able to operate a scanning electron microscope. “I’d seen them before, but this was the first time I’d ever touched one,” says Reamy. She and her colleagues were able to manipulate various samples (including a butterfly wing and a penny) and magnify them thousands more times their original size. Reamy intends to take the magnified images back to the classroom to show her students. She also has plans for a field trip that will bring her AP chemistry students to Hopkins to see firsthand how X-ray diffraction works.
Jim Ringlein, a science teacher at Lancaster Country Day School in Pennsylvania, completed the four-day summer program at the MRSEC back in 1999. “I’ve been back every summer since then,” says Ringlein, who spent five summers working with physics professor Mark Robbins. Ringlein’s work as an intern has aided his teaching and yielded several papers that have been published in Science Teacher Magazine, and he co-authored a paper with Robbins that appeared in the July 2004 American Journal of Physics. Says Ringlein, “That was big stuff for me.”
—Sue De Pasquale