Science Programs at Columbia Middle School Inspire Budding Scientists

In addition to the Stanford University Partnership Program at Columbia Middle School, department chairs and teachers at CMS have been hard at work, creating new programs and classes, applying for and receiving grants to supplement and strengthen existing curriculum across the school.

Eighth Grade Science teacher John Hardell received a Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) Innovation Grant to help provide materials for the San Jose Technology Museum’s Seismic Challenge. This grant made it possible for Mr. Hardell’s students to work in groups and learn in a new competitive environment where they collaborate, plan, and design a structure that will withstand a series of simulated earthquakes.

CMS Science Department Chair Kerry McNaughton reached out to the genetic testing company (DNA analysis), 23andMe, who sent a representative to visit her 7th grade classes as part of a lecture series. Allison Chubb, a Health Content Scientist at 23andMe, conducted a lesson with Ms. McNaughton’s students and determined the students’ phenotypes for their ability to taste phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) / propylthiouracil (PROP) compounds, the bitter compounds found in cabbage, raw broccoli, coffee, tonic water, and dark beers. Students had a discussion on why some people seem to enjoy brussels sprouts and broccoli while others cannot stand them. They learned that a genetic variation prevents some people from tasting bitter flavors found in certain vegetables. The presentation from 23andMe included each student tasting a strip of paper dipped in the PROP chemical. From the looks on the students’ faces, it was easy to tell who could taste the bitterness and who could not. A discussion of the relationship between phenotypes (the outward, physical manifestation of the organism, in this case, the ability or inability to taste bitterness in PTC/PROP chemicals) and genotypes (genetic make-up of a cell, internally coded, inheritable information, carried by all living organisms) followed.

 

23andMe lesson.
23andMe lesson.
23andMe lesson on ability to taste bitterness.
23andMe lesson on ability to taste bitterness.

 

 

 

All 8th grade students had the opportunity to visit Foothill College early this year. They attended The Physics Show where two Foothill College Physics professors, Frank Cascarano and David Marasco, along with some Foothill College students, put on a show demonstrating certain topics in physics, such as temperature, pressure, and electricity. This field trip to Foothill College also included a campus tour, a visit to the sports fields where Foothill’s soccer coach gave a speech, and a stop at the telescope/observatory where the students received information from an astronomy professor. The Physics Show provided free transportation for the students and free admission to the show, which costs $10 per person for the general public.

Field trip to Foothill College.
Field trip to Foothill College.
Lunch during field trip to Foothill College.
Lunch during field trip to Foothill College.
An exciting demonstration at The Physics Show, Foothill College.
An exciting demonstration at The Physics Show, Foothill College.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ms. McNaughton is working on recruiting more professionals in science and engineering, especially female and minority professionals, to speak to her students in the Lecture Series. She sees these guest speakers as role models, inspiring her students to consider a career in science and technology for themselves. If you are interested in being a guest lecturer, please contact Ms. McNaughton at kerry.mcnaughton@sesd.org.

Contributors: Kerry McNaughton, Nina Wong-Dobkin

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