High school science teachers translate the latest research into classroom activities, lessons

Blacksburg, Va. -- Do high school science teachers and university researchers view science differently? Not really, says Susan Eriksson, professor of geological sciences at Virginia Tech.

During the summer of 2002, five teachers of high school biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, and mathematics worked with Virginia Tech faculty members and graduate students in the university's labs on a project that is using new adaptations of the atomic force microscope (AFM) to increase knowledge of microbe/mineral interactions important to groundwater research.

As part of this project to bring the new field of nanoscience into the high school science curriculum, scientists and science teachers were interviewed to better understand their perspectives on the nature of science and science teaching. Eriksson will report early findings at the Geological Society of America's 114th annual meeting in Denver Oct. 27-30.

"At first, the scientists had a hard time seeing how their high-level, technical science could be useful in teaching secondary school science," says Eriksson. "But we found that the teachers can find many ways to incorporate the study of nanoscale processes in the environment into their lessons."

"One of my objectives is to get graduate students used to doing outreach. I want them to recognize the power of working with K-12 teachers and students," says Eriksson.

The research used for the project is the work of Ph.D. students and faculty members affiliated with the NanoGeoscience and Technology Laboratory at Virginia Tech, such as, nanoforce measurement of the forces between microbes and minerals using biological force microscopy (BMF), which was developed at Virginia Tech. Such forces can dictate whether minerals are taken out of or released into groundwater, for example. BMF has made it possible to model such interactions. Other researchers are evaluating controls of transport of such chemicals as hydrocarbons, arsenic, and

Contact: Susan Eriksson
Virginia Tech

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