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Archive for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

KU program helps science teachers inspire students about research

July 29, 2014

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High school science teachers have been going back to school at Kansas University this summer in hopes of returning to their classrooms with a few more ways to engage students.

The idea is to bring actual scientific research to high school students.

"It shows students that science does have practical application," said Laura Sixta, a chemistry teacher at De Soto High School.

The "Research Experience for Teachers" program is run by the KU Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis and funded through a $500,000, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation.

The six-week program brings selected teachers to KU to work on research that they can then take back to their classrooms.

"Ultimately, this program will encourage more students to become scientists and engineers," said Claudia Bode, CEBC education director.

Sixta's research focused on nano particles in creating magnets. But to make the subject more relevant to high schoolers, Sixta will have her students make sunscreen, which includes nano particles that reflect ultraviolet rays.

Brad Greenwood, who teaches physics, astronomy and geology at Free State High School, did research on growing algae to become a fuel source.

When school starts, Greenwood's students will experiment on how different colors of light affect algae growth.

"It's all very problem-solving," Greenwood said.

In addition to the research, Sixta and Greenwood said when teachers with varying levels of experience gather, there is a lot of sharing of lessons and ideas.

Both Sixta and Greenwood said they believe the research they worked on and will bring back to their students will prompt many questions in the classroom.

Sixta said that's what's it's all about. "A lot of kids assume they are bad at science. You have to show them how it connects to their life and how to think scientifically. A lot of times you get more questions than answers," she said.

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