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Monday, September 11, 2017

KS EPSCoR sponsors KU Natural History Museum's physics programs presented to KU TRIO Talent middle school stduents

Trio students conducting physics experiments at the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum
    This summer Kansas NSF EPSCoR provided participation support for two of the University of Kansas (KU) TRIO Talent Search summer programs, Career Horizons and Discover Technology.  The middle school students involved in these summer programs engaged in hands-on physics activities at the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum. Career Horizons is a program for rising 7th graders and Discover Technology is a program for rising 8th graders. The Career Horizons' learning experience focuses on exploring careers in STEM, attending college, and personal recreational/health and wellness as well as creates opportunities for students to increase a positive peer network. The Discover Technology opportunity is designed to enhance students’ excitement about the world of science and technology, increase career planning abilities, strengthen a positive peer network, and help students explore a global community.
       Kansas EPSCoR had previously partnered with Dr. Teresa Macdonald, Associate Director, Public Programs for the KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum, this past spring to provide funding support for Kansas middle school students attending her physics hands-on activity programs. To continue that partnership Kansas NSF EPSCoR extended its support to cover these two KU TRIO summer camps' participation in the following physics programs. For the Career Horizons group, they selected the Cartoon Guide to Energy program and for the Discover Technology students, they selected the Quarks: Ups, Downs and the Universe program.  Dr. Macdonald taught both programs.
    Dr. Macdonald said the partnership with the KU TRIO programs began in 2016 when Rebecca Dukstein, Director of KU TRIO Talent Search, was referred to Dr. Macdonald, by Dr. Alice Bean of the KU Physics and Astronomy Department. When Ms. Dukstein contacted Dr. Macdonald they discussed the possibility of creating physics-themed activities that could become part of these two TRIO summer programs.  Ms. Dukstein commented, “We wanted our students to have the opportunity to learn about physics in a fun, interactive way, with hands-on science demonstrations and experiments.”
    As for what the students thought about these learning experiences, on their end of the day evaluations Ms. Dukstein said the students wrote “they loved the activities.... They also commented that it was one of the best activities of the day and they sited different things they learned during the science session at the museum.”  Dr. Macdonald also heard from the students informally, and they told her “they really liked the program, had fun, and learned new things.”  Both Ms. Dukstein expressed her appreciation to Kansas NSF EPSCoR by saying “If it wasn’t for this 'Scholarship Fund', we would not have been able to bring our students to the museum and enhance the opportunity to learn about physics.” Dr. Macdonald echoed her gratitude by commenting, “We appreciate the funding provided by Kansas NSF EPSCoR ... that helped us offer engaging science learning experiences to underrepresented audiences.”

The KU TRIO Talent Search is a free college access program sponsored by the University of Kansas and funded through the U.S. Department of Education. The goals of the KU TRIO Talent Search are to encourage 7th and 8th grade students attending public schools in Kansas City and Wyandotte County to remain in school, pursue post-secondary education, and eventually earn a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. 

Education and outreach funding for the physics teacher workshop was provided by the Kansas and Nebraska NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: "Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures."  The grant's educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of atomic/molecular/optical science.