I learned so many great things during my internship at the NSF CREST Bioenergy Center at NC A&T State University. Everything from learning about lab procedures, lab safety, to best practices in education, technology, and grant writing are all areas that will have a profound impact in my classroom.
When I applied for the Kenan Fellows Program, I was a sixth grade teacher. This year, I moved to teaching eighth grade and in a twist of fate my eighth grade curriculum more closely aligns with what I learned during my internship.
There are obvious limitations in replicating the research/experiments being conducted at the Bioenergy Center, but there are many practical applications as well. One challenge of writing curriculum based on my internship was scaling down cutting-edge technology and research to something my middle school students could appreciate and understand.
But I was able to tackle this challenge head on.
For example, I shadowed a doctoral student who is working to find the best balance of chemicals toward creating biofuels. He explained how he uses the pore space of the supporting material in a method to introduce one of the chemicals.
In using pore space, he creates more surface area. I am able to use part of his very complex research in my classroom by creating a lesson that mimics his use of pore space.
Collaborating with my fellow Kenan Fellows has been a rich experience. There is no shortage of hands to catch, or prod should I feel I have hit a block. The input from my colleagues helps give my curriculum greater depth and dimension.
Above all, my experience as a Kenan Fellow has allowed me to re-enter the classroom feeling recharged and renewed.
Cindy Bullard teachs at John R. Kernodle, Jr. Middle School in Guilford County. She interned under Dr. Keith Schimmel at NC A&T University. Her fellowship was supported by Dr. Schimmel and NC A&T.