Instilling a Love of Science

UA student Andrew Davis with a Matthews Elementary student
Andrew Davis, a sophomore majoring in Biology, helps a Matthews Elementary student make a miniature tornado with plastic bottles.

From the February 2014 Desktop News | Pre-health honors students in the College are entering their second semester of leading an after-school science program at Matthews Elementary, where about 45 UA students go twice each week to lead hands-on science experiments.

Monica Brint, a junior majoring in biology, started the program – called Discovery Buddies – as a way to expose elementary students to the health profession, reiterate what they learn in class and spark a love of science.

So far, the group has helped second, third and fourth graders create lava lamps from food coloring and vegetable oil, explore properties of solids and liquids with made-from-scratch Silly Putty, and visualize the four chambers of the heart with straws and Ziploc bags.

Brint said her favorite part of Discovery Buddies is seeing the kids’ enthusiasm for science and watching their faces light up when chemicals react.

“I started this program because I wanted to provide the students with role models who are currently pursuing careers in science,” Brint said. “Because my own early exposure to science greatly influenced me, I wanted to provide these same experiences and opportunities to the students at Matthews. The goal is to spark the students’ interest in science and provide them with role models who are currently pursuing their own aspirations in science.”

Dr. Stephen Secor, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the group’s faculty advisor, said he has been amazed at the success of Discovery Buddies and said the program is enlightening the lives of both the UA and Matthews Elementary students involved.

“The UA students are gaining important skills in teaching and communicating with young kids while providing a valuable service to the community,” Secor said. “The kids at Matthews involved in the program have now this fantastic hands-on opportunity to explore and undertake science. For both the students and children this is an unforgettable experience that can spark their passion for teaching and science.”

Discovery Buddies started as an outreach of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-health honor society, and Beta Beta Beta, the biology honor society, but has since grown to include non-members majoring in biology, chemistry, education, social work and other fields. Funding for the program is made possible through a partnership with the nonprofit organization Tuscaloosa’s One Place.