The first summer of MCTP's Research Internship Program--a critical feature that sets MCTP apart from other teacher preparation programs--was successful beyond all expectations. The students' mentors in research laboratories, children's museums, and other sites have been so happy with the students' work that they want more MCTP students next summer. In fact, the program has been extended on a limited basis through the fall.
The interns have been enthusiastic about what they've learned and how they'll apply their new knowledge when they become teachers. Some have generated research findings that will be published in scientific journals, others have analyzed science education resources , and others have worked with children in informal science education settings. On August 16, at a Student Forum held at the Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies in Cambridge, MD, MCTP interns described their accomplishments. A sampling follows.
Pinpointing Kidney Damage in Fish After Antibiotic Exposure
Intern Marshell Kinnel of Bowie State University spent her summer verifying that the antibiotic gentamicin is toxic to a very specific region in the kidneys of toadfish. This confirmation is important for aquatic toxicologists and veterinarians such as Marshell's mentor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Dr. Renate Reimshuessel. Marshell's work is an outgrowth of Dr. Reimshuessel's discovery that certain fish can regenerate kidney tissue following exposure to toxic substances. The next step was to find out how fish with different kidney anatomy would respond. With Dr. Reimschuessel's guidance, Marshell learned how to administer gentamicin to toadfish via injections and to evaluate the extent of the kidney damage. She also helped to revise the manuscript that will be submitted to a scientific journal, and earned a name mention on the article.
Besides learning a lot about aquatic toxicology, Marshell noted at the Student Forum that she now appreciates that it can take a lifetime of research to generate findings that translate into two lines ina textbook. She also emphasized to her fellow students that just a year ago she felt overwhelmed by one of her science classes, but this summer was different. In the lab she gained confidence because she was willing to say "I don't know" and to ask a lot of questions. "I promise you," she told them, "if I can do it, you can do it."
Mapping Craters on Mars
MCTP intern Jennifer Sager of UMBC has helped to identify areas on the surface of Mars with the very oldest exposed crust, as evidenced by concentrations of large, well-preserved impact craters. Under the guidance of Dr. Herb Frey of the Geodynamics Branch in NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Jennifer thoroughly studied 138 photomosaic maps taken by the Viking Orbiter of the entire surface of Mars. Her goal was to determine the number and distribution of impact craters, especially large craters (200-500km in diameter) that had not been buried over millions of years by volcanic flows or weathering.
For each crater on each map, Jennifer collected and recorded data including the longitude, latitude, diameter, and state of preservation. Jennifer's findings were surprising in that unlike smaller craters, which are roughly evenly distributed on the old parts of the Martian surface, the distribution of the large craters is not uniform. This indicates that the places where large craters are best preserved may be the very oldest crust of Mars. Jennifer's work will be published in a scientific journal.
Thinking ahead to when she becomes a teacher, Jennifer plans to use the photomosaic maps in math lessons for middle school students, perhaps to provide an "out-of-this-world" context for a unit on geometry.
Designing an Evaluation Questionnaire For a Science CD-ROM
As part of a NASA educational outreach program, MCTP intern Fredda Smith of Coppin State College developed a questionnaire for evaluating an educational CD-ROM produced by NASA on ozone in the earth's atmosphere. The questionnaire will accompany demo copies of the CD-ROM, which Fredda's mentor Carla Evans, Educational Outreach Coordinator, will distribute to high school and undergraduate educators this fall. To develop the questionnaire, Fredda reviewed the CD, consulted with Carla to determine the information needed, researched formats, developed questions that are easy to answer and analyze, designed a pilot questionnaire, and revised it as needed following reviews by staff and a teacher. Once the teachers respond to the questionnaire, NASA will complete the CD. The results of the questionnaire will be available in the Fall of 1995.
Discovery Creek Children's Museum,
Three MCTP interns, all guided by mentor Jodie Smolik.
Intern: Erica Pope of Coppin State College
Project: "Investigating the relationship between the set-up of an activity and its outcome."
Finding: The success of an activity is influenced by the time of day, the children's attention spans and behavior patterns, and the degree to which children are involved in the set-up phase.
Intern: Kathleen Winslow of Bowie State University
Project: "Observing children's approaches to bamboo pole fishing."
Findings: Most children learned to cast their fishing lines safely, they all enjoyed fishing even if they did not make a catch, and their attentiveness was enhanced if they had been physically active prior to fishing.