Spring Hill College Magazine
Seven years ago, Carolyn Simmons, PhD, associate professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry, Physics & Engineering, envisioned a way to get more middle school students exposed to and interested in science when she created the Partners in Science outreach program.
Each year, the program, which was also designed as a service-learning lab course for some of the most capable freshmen chemistry students who are enrolled in Honors Chemistry at Spring Hill College, partners with an area middle school in an underserved area of Mobile. Students make five visits during a given academic year to perform experiments with local eighth grade students.
“We’re providing eighth grade students a chance to do a lab that they would not normally see until the college level,” Simmons said.
Spring Hill students prepare the experiment on campus, take everything – chemicals, glassware, safety glasses, lab coats and more – to the middle school for the experiment, and then clean everything up when it’s over. The honors lab is also a LEAP course and exposes Spring Hill students to more rigorous junior level lab experiments. The program is partnering with Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic School for the 2016-17 academic year.
“Partners in Science taught me about human dignity and the need to support children in advancing their education,” said chemistry major Kendall Campeau ’19. “When I see kids engaged and excited about science, I realize that circumstance is a situation that has to be fought for in order to change.”
To benefit the eighth grade students even more this year, Simmons applied for and received a VWR Founder’s Grant from the VWR Charitable Foundation in the amount of $9,464 on behalf of the Partners in Science program. Proceeds from the grant were used to purchase handheld, visible spectrometers and handheld data acquisition devices. Simmons said that the program has received grants from other sources over the years including from the Spring Hill College Quality Enhancement Program, the American Chemical Society and the Newhouse Foundation as well as a private donation from an alumnus. These funds helped develop the program and buy basic equipment such as balances, pH probes, lab coats, chemicals and glasses.
Visit the website for the Department of Chemistry, Physics & Engineering to learn more about the program.