Posted March 28, 2014

Temple medical students teach science to local students

Gina Benigno
Video Production: Gina Benigno

For more than a year, Temple medical students have been enriching the science experience of seventh- and eighth-graders at nearby Mary McLeod Bethune School in North Philadelphia.

Since February 2013, approximately 12 Temple students have been visiting Bethune twice weekly, teaching science lessons to two different classes with an accompanying activity designed to reinforce that lesson, said Kathryn Stockbower, a second-year medical student who organized the outreach to Bethune.

The program grew out of Temple’s Christian Medical and Dental Association, which had learned that Bethune could use some help. After meeting with the school’s former principal, the group decided to create a science enrichment program.

“Being science nerds, we were really excited to try and bring some life to their lessons,” Stockbower said. “We were looking to give them more hands-on instruction, because they were basically working out of a textbook.”

Approximately 50 Temple volunteers have gone to Bethune. With six medical students teaching each lesson, they are able to break their classes into small groups of about five to work on the planned activity.

“All our lessons are focused on breaking into these small groups, and that makes a huge difference,” Stockbower said. “In a class of 30 students with one teacher, you just can’t get that kind of individual attention.”

The students worked with Bethune’s seventh-graders last year, but when school started in September, they decided to stay with those same students as eighth-graders.

“We decided on seventh- and eighth-graders, because they have their Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests in eighth grade and science is a part of that,” she said. “We wanted to make sure these students were getting extra science enrichment.”

A field trip to Temple’s School of Medicine was held in December. Temple students and faculty taught the Bethune students CPR, walked them through a patient diagnosis, and let them listen to heart rhythms and see their own hearts on an EKG machine (see video).

The Medical School’s student government association also organized a health fair at Bethune in November, during which they also held a student science fair organized by second-year medical student Meredith Manire. All the projects were health related, covering topics such as healthful eating, hand hygiene and growing vegetables in different soils.

“A lot of these students have never spoken in public, so we wanted to provide them with an opportunity to talk about science with others and share their knowledge,” Manire said. “We also wanted them to learn and understand about scientific methods: forming a hypothesis, collecting data and making a conclusion.”

Because of their upcoming medical-board exams in May, Stockbower, Manire and the other second-year students have turned the program over to a group of enthusiastic first-year students.

“It’s kind of sad,” Manire said about leaving the program. “I know it has only been about a year, but we’ve seen these kids grow up and have formed close relationships with them. But I feel like we’ve given them the skills to be successful in their high school science classes.”