2016 Buggin Around with Microscopes with Crosswell Elementary School

The Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET) hosted 42 third graders from Crosswell Elementary School on October 5th, 2016. Their teachers, Mrs. Samantha Head and Mrs. Ann Burdette, accompanied the students. The students ran the scanning electron microscopes (SEM) and transmission electron microscope (TEM) at the Clemson University Electron Microscope Facility where the observed a variety of insects, which engaged them directly with science. Students kept saying, “It’s my turn to run it!”,“Science is so cool!”, and “I can actually see the bug’s exoskeleton!” Students also participated in three additional hands-on stations, including Chemistry and Light, Why and How Does it Glow? and Magnetism and States of Matter, both of which are South Carolina State Standards for third grade, where the students got to paint a picture and transfer it to UV paper via UV light, use polarized glasses and infrared lasers, and make polymer snow. The teachers enjoyed watching their students engage in a tangible way with the science that they learn in the classroom: “You never know what will spark a student’s interest. Any one of these activities could be the catalyst that encourages a student to go into science,” Mrs. Ann Burdette said. Confirming her statement, students were heard exclaiming, “I want to do what you do when I grow up!” To help remind them of their science-filled day, the students and their teachers were given T-shirts with the SEM pictures that the students actually took of the insects. The Foulger group delivered the T-shirts to the students' school, and all of the students were so excited to get their T-shirts. The students were so excited, in fact, that they all immediately put on their shirts and wanted to take pictures in front of their school! All of the students were gathered at the front of their school along with their teachers, principal, and the volunteers to have their photo shoot as another reminder of their fun day at the Advanced Materials Research Laboratories. Next year, the Foulger group plans to expand this outreach effort into a multi-day engagement encompassing all of Crosswell Elementary School's third graders. This outreach effort is a part of one of Dr. Stephen Foulger’s research grants (NSF DMR-1507266) and is totally supported by the same grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).