Tennessee’s Governor’s School

Jen here –

Colin simulating how early amphibians would do push ups.

This past summer I participated in Tennessee’s Governor’s Schools for the Sciences and Engineering program. Governor’s School is an intense month of coursework for high school students. For the month, the students live on campus in one of the dorms, take a few classes, and get to experience how college would be! I participate in many different outreach activities but the high school age range is one that I have not worked with very often. Most of the students I have worked with are 3rd-5th grade levels.

Sarah, one of our collaborators, and I were the teaching assistants for the course on “Vertebrate Evolution”. We helped the students with activities related to the lectures and pulled specimens out of our fossil collection for the students to examine.The course was structured as a walk through the evolution of vertebrates through time with emphasis on what specific features join groups of animals. It was a lot of fun to learn about vertebrate evolution, as I work on invertebrates. It was also a great experience getting to work with high school students. We took them on several class trips: tour of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Ripley’s Aquarium, and Zoo Knoxville.

Part of the Governor’s School gang at the zoo!

Class met for 3 hours every afternoon for a month, it was a lot! By the end of the month both the students and instructors were all very exhausted. The students had a final project that they presented as posters on the last day of class. It was so fun to hear about all of the great animal groups they researched. One of the most rewarding things about experiences like this is learning from your students. I have so much respect for K-12 teachers.

I simply do not have the mental or physical capacity to work with young students for an entire day. Thank a teacher for their dedication to educating our youth – it is a terribly difficult job that so many wonderful people excel at.

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