However, quenching the sweet tooth of the classroom was only a minimal part of the day’s lesson as teacher Leigh Metcalfe explained following the class’ departure. The demonstration was carried out by University of Nevada, Reno professor Dr. Emil Geiger and graduate student Kelsey Eiriksson, who have formed a partnership with Reed High through a grant from the National Science Foundation.
The grant works on two levels: 1) It allows graduate students a chance to practice their teaching and presentation skills to lower learning levels, 2) and it allows teachers and students at the high school level to participate in hands-on learning.
“A lot of these graduate students are preparing to become professors and they really need to figure out how to present their information so that even basic level students can understand it,” Metcalfe said. “It helps them better present their information to the general public and will help transfer those speaking skills to eventually teaching graduate students.”
Having Eiriksson in her multiple science classes intravenously throughout the year has brought major benefits to Metcalfe and her lesson plans for students in Environmental and Physical science classes.
“I think one of the major advantages that I see is that Kelsey can take an idea or concept and kind of develop it into a lesson that I can use year after year,” Metcalfe said. “All of the things she has brought to the class have been very hands-on and very interactive and it is stuff that sometimes I can't find time to develop. She is able to do it and turn it into something that is really engaging for the students.
“That is one of the biggest impacts that I will see. Even today I picked up some things, that even though I know the concepts, understand them and have been teaching them, there is some clarity in hearing it being said and taught in a different way. In the future I can make that lesson stronger and more tangible to the students.”
Eiriksson said a few students have approached her, asking follow-up questions and hoping to gain insight on which classes would be most beneficial if they are looking to enter the engineering field. Metcalfe said the inspiration Eiriksson has provided, both as a woman and as a graduate student in engineering, has given the classes plenty to think about.
“I think a lot of females tend to think that science is not as appealing or too hard,” Metcalfe said. “And so I like that I have a female graduate student and I think the students see they are working on cool research at the university. They are seeing it is science that applies to real-life stuff.
“I think it shows the students that the professors and the graduate students at the university are not that much different. Hopefully, that encourages them to pursue something in the sciences they maybe never considered before.”
A total of three classes witnessed cookies baking in a silver-reflective solar oven on the pavement outside of the school. The temperature was monitored inside the classroom through a wireless thermometer allowing Geiger to teach the class about convection, conduction and radiation. In the morning class, the oven’s temperature reached 241 degrees in an hour of sitting in the sun and Geiger said it would likely reach warmer temperatures for the afternoon class, enabling the cookies to bake completely.
The partnership between Reed High and UNR will continue through the year and Geiger said the colleges of Engineering and Education at the university are working diligently to introduce more engineering concepts into the middle and high school curriculum. Metcalfe said the combination of collegiate speakers and hands-on work help her students not only retain more information but it inspires them to delve deeper in the topics.
“I am hoping they saw some connections between what he (Geiger) was teaching and things I have taught in the past,” Metcalfe said. “A lot of the students have been in my physical science classes when we went over convection, radiation and conduction so they should have known those principles, but hearing it again, and from somebody at the university, showed them how these principles have to be applied in engineering. It makes the information more relevant and makes it actually apply to something.
“I try to make my class really hands on and incorporate a lot of labs. I feel like after they have done an activity, their knowledge level is way higher than if we just read a book or took notes. Although that part is important for base knowledge, it is those hands-on experiments that really makes it stick in their brains so they can talk about it later.”