There's a Scientist in my Classroom!

MIT Edgerton Center

Before Jessica Garrett arrived at the Edgerton Center, she taught math and science to grades 3, 5, and 6. She often recruited special guests to speak to her classes. Some were better than others, and she wished there were a way to help them better understand how to speak to young audiences.Edgerton Center TSC Workshop

And while she had a network of scientific friends and family, she knew that other teachers often struggled to find scientists and engineers willing to talk to their classes.

When Jessica attended the final COSEENE/TERC's Telling Your Story session at MIT, she was so excited about the idea of a workshop where teachers and scientists could meet each other and make a concrete classroom visit plan that she decided to help continue this program. She has been doing so since fall of 2011, teaming with other colleagues across MIT and Harvard, and continually improving the program.

On October 30 and November 5, Jessica (in collaboration with Carolyn Zeiner, an environmental microbiology graduate student at Harvard University; Anique Olivier-Mason of the HHMI Drennan Lab; Ben Kotrc of Roger Summon’s geobiology lab at MIT; Peg LeGendre of the Cambridge Science Festival; and Leilani Roser, an independent science education consultant) held what is now called “There’s a Scientist in My Classroom!” Workshop (TSC). Juliet Perdichuzzi and Sandra Lipnoski of the Edgerton Center contributed significantly to the success of the event. The networking events brought over 40 grade 6-12 local science and multi-subject teachers together with an equal number of scientists and engineers interested in inspiring the next generation through classroom visits.

With the help of TSC alumni and other veteran classroom presenters, scientists learn effective communication skills appropriate for K-12 audiences and work with teachers to develop content for their classroom visits. Everyone participates in a hands-on activity, experiencing how this method of teaching engages students. The most helpful feature of the workshops are structured, 10-minute speed chats in which teachers and STEM researchers have a chance to meet with multiple potential partners for classroom visits.

Post-workshop, scientists and engineers continue planning with teachers and visit their classrooms to tell exciting stories about themselves and their work. They also engage students with a hands-on activity that either demonstrates important principles of the visitors’ work and/or allows the students to engage in a guided inquiry relevant to the visitors’ work. On one occasion, a microbiologist pitted soap against hand sanitizer in an experiment to help 3rd graders decide which is more effective at killing bacteria. On another visit, an oceanographer used a role-playing game to demonstrate nitrogen cycling and guided the students in collecting and measuring water samples from a nearby harbor.

For more information, visit the teacher resources page on our Web site.