SDSU Physics - Outreach
Dept. of Physics Outreach
Professor Saul Oseroff has been involved for a long time in developing new approaches to presenting physics to K-12 students. Prof. Oseroff delivers "guest lectures" at high schools, in which, through simple experiments, he presents physics as an exciting component of everyday life. He developed a pilot program whereby he has established a relationship with an individual teacher at a given school. Then, in the process of visiting and planning for his guest lectures, other science teachers at other schools have begun to participate. Since he wished to develop material that would eventually cover the K-12 range, he started with three schools in San Diego County: Sunnyslope Elementary School, Horace Middle School, and Montgomery Middle School. This program was partially supported by funding from NSF.
He developed a collaboration at the UCSD/TV station, where a half-hour video tape of his presentations was produced, featuring both what he does, and more interestingly, how the pupils respond to the presentations. This half-hour video titled Science in the Classroom: A Magical Experience, was aired many times on the UCSD TV channel.
Here's how Prof. Oseroff describes the program: "The quality of K-12 education is of special concern to our society. Of course, challenges of K-12 science education are of such proportions that no one program can meet them. We often found ourselves asking the following questions:
I felt that I could make a contribution to K-12 science education by working directly with the teachers and students in their own classrooms. One challenge was to get the children excited about science by showing them that science is fascinating, and is not something foreign or "weird," but in reality surrounds all of us, all the time.
A critical component of my interaction with the students was to make sure that their interest level was maintained while we worked together to really understand examples of the science that entered into their daily life. With the help of the technical stuff from the Physics Department, we designed and built a number of demonstrations which have played a key role in the program. Particularly because we found that one of the most important contributions we could make was to help the teacher repeat, and expand upon these demonstrations on their own. In my presentations, I start each new subject with simple and fun demonstrations to motivate the students to examine their understanding of physical concepts. Many of the subjects presented were based on everyday observations, which they naturally may never have given deep thought The main approach is to take advantage of their natural curiosity, and to encourage them to think rather than to look for "correct answers". In the process, they begin to realize that thinking about science can be fun!"
This experience has proven very stimulating to the students, and the teachers and school administrators have received this project enthusiastically. They feel that this approach could be very helpful in developing new strategies for teaching science, and making it attractive to our target populations.
One of the important aspects of this program is that we are developing video and other resource materials that will be made available in both English and Spanish. As part of our earliest efforts, we made presentations in classrooms where the vast majority, (or even all) of the students could only understand Spanish. Since I myself am a native Spanish speaker, I am often asked to give his presentations in Spanish, and as can be expected, the students respond with enthusiasm.
It is critical to motivate students to actively participate in the lectures. Many of the students we interact with are not used to asking questions, and we have found that the challenge and merits of the demonstrations bring excitement to the point where they do participate. We encourage students to ask questions, explain what they learned from each demonstration, how they would improve on it, build their own demonstrations, discuss topics with their family, and describe in subsequent sessions what they were able to explain at home and how they felt about the experience. In summary, we will take advantage of the students' fantasy and curiosity and try to enlighten them on the joys of scientific inquiry.
While I cannot predict the success and acceptance of our program, I will be prepared, and indeed am committed, to expand the TV and video series as warranted. Clearly, this may require funding beyond that available from NSF, and we would hope to obtain such funds as will be needed from private Foundations."
For more information, please contact Prof. Saul Oseroff
Pictures shown were taken during a field trip to the SDSU Physics Department of third, fourth and fifth graders from the Looking Glass Neighborhood Afterschool program at Rosa Parks Elementary School . Also shown are sample letters written by the children to Prof. Oseroff.
Prof. Oseroff was also involved in The Seek out Science project, designed to help children, particularly girls and minorities who are generally underrepresented in sciences, explore science careers and practical applications. In the picture below SDSU physicist Saul Oseroff wow kids at Sunnyslope elementary school with practical applications of science.
SDSU Physics Professor Saul Oseroff has also received a grant from Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), a state-funded initiative designed to improve math and science education for children with limited resources to succeed academically.