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Since 2015, the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum (The Discovery) has partnered with the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) to give introductory microbiology students a unique service learning opportunity. The students get to design fun, hands-on activities meant to break barriers and make science more accessible to the public.
UNR microbiology students have created activities for The Discovery’s spring break and summer camps in the past. Previous classes developed four different week-long camps, along with two nights of themed Teen Science Night programming. In 2017, they generated a 5-day summer camp called “The Science of You,” which taught first and second graders about the inner workings of the human body. Campers participated in activities like yoga, which set the foundation for life-long healthy habits, and they made agar plates, which gave them a macroscopic view of the bacteria that inhabits their skin.
During past service learning projects with The Discovery, UNR students had missed out on one critical aspect of the camp experience: they didn’t get to interact with the campers themselves. Instead, The Discovery’s museum Educators lead their activities. That changed this year, as the students got to conduct the facilitated learning activities themselves.
During the second week of the Washoe County School District’s Spring Break from Monday, April 2nd, through Thursday, April 5th, 70 microbiology students spent a total of 1,400 hours designing and preparing their science activities for delivery at the museum. Then they spent another 175 hours actually leading their activities on the museum floor. That’s a total of 1,575 hours of service learning!
Student activities delivered at The Discovery spanned about 20 different science concepts, including:
Dr. Ruth Gault, who teaches the introductory microbiology lab, is always excited to have her students lead their own projects. She explains,
“We do a very good job training our science majors to be professionals with communication skills in the form of peer-reviewed publications, presentations at professional meetings, and interacting with visiting scholars. However, our science students are not always given the opportunity to develop their communication skills when interacting with the general public. Through this interaction with The Discovery, students are able to apply their science background in a way that makes science more accessible to the general public.”
Here’s what four of the UNR microbiology students had this to say about their service learning experience at The Discovery:
The Discovery hopes you had a chance to learn about the wonders of the microscopic world, create your own pH indicator, or experiment with density while these UNR students were here. You can always check our calendar of events for more fun ways to explore science!