UT Bio Majors Head Back to High School to Teach

Published: Apr 19, 2013
Brooke Holland ’13, a biology major graduating in May and heading to Scotland for graduate school, facilitates a lab with two Wharton High School students.
Brooke Holland ’13, a biology major graduating in May and heading to Scotland for graduate school, facilitates a lab with two Wharton High School students.
From left Ann Williams, associate professor of biology, and Denise Dennison, Wharton’s AP biology and marine science teacher, banter with students about the day’s lesson.
From left Ann Williams, associate professor of biology, and Denise Dennison, Wharton’s AP biology and marine science teacher, banter with students about the day’s lesson.
Jenna Sullivan ’13, right, and four other UT students helped create a curriculum and lead a four-day microbiology program for Wharton High School’s AP biology students.
Jenna Sullivan ’13, right, and four other UT students helped create a curriculum and lead a four-day microbiology program for Wharton High School’s AP biology students.

Jenna Sullivan ’13 stood in front of the classroom of 25 high school students, full of confidence as she led the special topic for the day: microbiology.

She reviewed what she and four other UT students have spent the last week teaching, things like gram positive and gram negative bacteria, antibiotic resistance, the difference between selective and differential agar types, and what makes a lactose fermenter.

Sullivan, along with Brooke Holland ’13, Jana Huebner ’13, Taylor Wade ’14 and Kisla Clercent ’16 spent this semester working with Ann Williams, associate professor of biology, on an outreach project with Wharton High School in north Tampa, developing a curriculum, writing a lab outline and test, and preparing a PowerPoint lesson.

Williams began the outreach last year as a way to ignite future scientists early and mentor those who have already found a passion. While she is equal opportunity in her efforts, she initially started out to encourage young girls.

In Spring 2011, she was awarded a UT National Alumni Association grant to develop an outreach program to area schools. She recruited five UT undergraduate science education majors from her classes to help create the curriculum. It was such a success they were asked to return this spring.

“The best way to learn something is to teach it,” Williams said.

Mentoring students isn’t new for Sullivan and Holland. The two mentor upper level biology students at UT.

“It’s been more fun,” said Sullivan, biology major, about working with the high schoolers.

At UT, they follow the professors’ lead, setting up equipment, making sure students are performing the labs correctly and hosting study sessions. At Wharton, she has more control of the classroom and the structure of the lesson. Plus, they fielded questions about applying to college, living in the residence halls and university life.

“It’s been cool being here,” said Sullivan, who will graduate in May. “We haven’t been in a high school setting in quite a while.”

Peer teaching is an effective form of reaching high school students, said Denise Dennison, Wharton’s AP biology and marine science teacher.

The UT contingent is able to dig into lessons Dennison isn’t able to, either due to resources or time. With UT coming in April, the classes act as a review for the upcoming AP test as well.

“It gives them a different perspective,” Dennison said. “The kids love it. They are more engaged, and it gives them a perspective on what a college lab would be like.”

An in-depth article on Williams and her efforts, as well as the efforts of others at UT who are taking their love of science, mathematics and technology beyond the boundries of campus, is featured in the Spring 2013 UT Journal

 

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