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Faith DeMotts is a sophomore from Kingsport, Tennessee, majoring in Animal Science with a specialization in Veterinary Bioscience.

This class definately opened my eyes to the idea that some people do not believe in themselves and their ability to achieve great things. Coming into the class, I had prior experience with the project at hand, but I had never seen its impact on students or the general public. I did a lot of “behind the scenes” work on measuring teeth and analyzing the data already collected, so I mostly thought about the project as what people had been missing and not what they had found. When we went to our first class, I saw how hard the students work and realized there was more to the project than just unfound shark teeth. Being able to work with students one one one helped me understand what they were getting out of the project and helped me change how I had been viewing the project. Many students became very involved and asked great questions which made me feel like I was making a difference in their interest in science. Some acted uninterested, but as we talked to them, they started to open their minds to the project.


stfpic2Shivani Surati (left) is a junior from Rockingham, North Carolina majoring in Science, Technology, and Society with a specialization on Public Health.

I feel I have personally grown and developed from taking this class. I think since taking on the class, I have seen a different outlook on social institutions. I really enjoyed learning and discussing how socioeconomic factors influence one’s quality and access of education. I think I came into this class with the intention to have a teaching experience with high school students. However, I walked out feeling more educated and considerate of the different backgrounds poeple come from, and what their own challenges and advantages could be. I thought this project would be something to help me boost my resume and have a unique experience to connect my personal and academic goals. I would like to go into a career of public health, and I wanted this opportunity to serve to remind me why I want to work and serve people. I feel this experience has achieved that, but it has also taught me the importance of being able to explain my work and research I’ve done to people who are not from a similar educational background. I really appreciate having the humbling opportunity to eork with students who may have faced similar chalenges as minorities. The team I worked with were especially helpful in my personal growth, as I felt empowered and inspired that the people I worked with knew the challenges I have faced and had similar experience. It made me fel less alone and inspired to want to continue into higher education. I feel from this class I am more confident, prepared, and inspired. I know this course will help me as I aspired to achieve my career goals and has allowed me to grow personally.


stfpic3Kenzie Cromer is a junior from Pittsboro, North Carolina, majoring in Biological with a specialization Integrative Physiology, Neuroscience and Behavior.

I have high-functioing autism. Though I do well academically, sometimes simple tasks-like finding your way around new places or asking someone for clarification-give me difficulty.

It was because of my difficulties in high school, annd college, that I enrolled in BSC 495: I wanted to shared my experience with students like me. I wanted these students to know that it’s possible for people with cognitive differences to navigate college successfully (and, sometimes, unsuccessfully). I wanted them to know that the “right” trajectory to college does not exist. Most importantly, I wanted them to revisit a time in their lives when learning was fun, and not dictated by test scores and grades.

The thing you have to understand, the thing I remember vividly about these kids, was their initial skepticism. Many asked whether they had to complete the project to reveive fill credit; others worried they had not collected enough shark teeth to “earn a good grade.” I realized at once that my approach wasn’t working. I hadn’t gotten through to them=this was just another assignment. I guess that was my first epiphany. These kids didn’t need to learn about fossilized shark teeth; I needed to learn how to teach effectively. Specifically, I needed to figure out how to explain concepts in ways that were accessible to very different students with very different needs.

The bottom line: teaching is hard, and there’s no single pedagogical method that works for everyone. I was disappointed in myself, at first, and felt that I had failed. Then I realized that my expectations were impossibly high: I was not going to change the circumstances of anyone’s life in a day. I was not going to convince anyone that science was the perfect career (nor did I want to). But I could give someone an opportunity to learn something new, to think about science in a different context-whatever context that may be.

Once I realized this, I stopped trying to force the student’s engagement. Instead, I let them explore the sediment in a self-directed manner. Some students were not interested in our project, but many more were, and I noticed the vast majority of the kids-even ones who initially expressed distain-began sorting through the sediment on their tables as soon as they sat down. I hadn’t asked them to do that-they were engaging with the project on the own terms, examining the fossils, sifting through the rocks, talking amongst themselves.

For some kids, finding teeth was exciting, almost like a competition. I remember a boy who barely spoke but found at least twelve fossilzed teeth, intensively concentrated on the task at hand; I remember a girl who was less interested in teeth and more interested in peripheral sediment, such as ray plates and mollusks, the intricate spirals of fossilized snails.

For me, this was the most gratifying aspect of the project–giving the kids permission to become curious again, to explore something for the sake of it.


stfpic5Kennedy Brinson (bottom) is a super senior from Dunn, North Carolina majoring in Biological Sciences with a focus on zoo, meseum education and outreach. She is also minoring in Antropology.

The main project for the class was decided by us students and entirely student-driven, making this class a great learning environment for those who have interests in outreach, teaching, and research. I personally benefited from this class and project because I was able to practice teaching methods, engaging, and communicating with the students we visited, and finding new methods that I have not used previously from my experience as a volunteer in informal teaching styles within museums and zoos. I was able to work with my peers to engage students in a classroom setting, which allowed me to challenge myself and my methods of teaching and learning while doing.




stfpic6Mike Lewis is senior from Goldsboro, North Carolina majoring in Biological Sciences with a specialization on Public Science Education and Outreach.

Raya Boyd is a senior from Charlotte, North Carolina majoring in Chemistry. She is also minoring in Environmental Toxicology.