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Demos Guide for Undergraduates Volunteering in Schools
This guide from Yale University helps undergraduates and others who volunteer in elementary schools present science concepts in an engaging way. It can also assist educators who want to establish a similar volunteer program at their schools or adapt the lessons for their classrooms. Although some parts of the online guide (scheduling, transportation, and school contact information) are specific to the university’s Demos program—which places undergraduate volunteers in schools to conduct weekly interactive learning labs—other sections are more generally useful. They outline good practices in elementary education and provide a series of interactive labs. The “teaching tips” section reminds volunteers to “avoid fancy vocabulary and do a demonstration whenever possible.” The interactive curriculum, which usually involves a building project, covers a wide variety of subject areas—from physics and chemistry to biology, earth sciences, and engineering. The curriculum contains 10 protocols on topics such as density, animal cells, botany, volcanoes, magnetism, and optical illusions; each protocol has learning outcomes, materials, and procedures (including key concepts, talking points, and the estimated time needed for each part of the lab). Each protocol also provides background information designed to help the volunteer explain science at the appropriate level. The first learning lab, on density, emphasizes the scientific method as students test different objects (Styrofoam, paper clips, and marbles), after making a hypothesis about what will happen in the experiment. Most of the lessons use simple, inexpensive, and easily obtainable materials, such as applesauce, marshmallows, raisins, and cereal to create a model of a cell.
Program Director: Robert J. Wyman, Ph.D.
Award Years: 1989, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006
Summary: Yale University is a private research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Its HHMI-funded initiatives include:
- Increasing diversity in the sciences through its flagship STARS (Science, Technology and Research Scholars) Program, which has been nationally recognized for its success in fostering ethnic minority students on their way to science degrees and biomedical careers;
- Improving the quality of teacher training through programs such as the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, which invites teachers to participate in seminars where they create new curricula, and Yale’s Teacher Preparation Program, which trains new science teachers; and
- Offering summer residential programs with classes and labs for inner-city high school students, and providing science enrichment in city schools through DEMOS (a program that encourages Yale students to volunteer in school enrichment activities), science demonstrations in elementary and middle schools, and science and math research teams in the upper grades.