Inspiring the Next Generation of Scientists

Excited young minds at James Martin Middle School were treated by a collaboration of their teachers and scientist who worked together at this year’s CTI Summer Research Experience for Teachers (SRET). Two 8th grade science teachers from James Martin Middle School, Geneva Bell and Phil Carver, worked with a Ph.D. graduate student and professor of chemistry from UNC Charlotte, Margaret Kocherga and Dr. Tom Schmedake, this summer to research and develop new STEM curricula. This wonderful group wanted to share their expertise and enthusiasm with students, so, they planned a series of four fall activities to show the students and the community the engaging, fun side of science.

It began with James Martin Middle School Curriculum Night on Oct, 10, where students and parents engaged in a variety of scientific activities and lectures. Carver described what students gained from the experience:  “Hands-on lab activities and a new perspective from a professor and graduate student from a large university.” He added, “Dr. Schmedake discussed career opportunities for science-related jobs in Charlotte and North Carolina” including sharing salaries for scientists to his 8th grade students.  The labs included activities such as how to assemble Blackberry Solar Cells from TiO2 nanoparticles and graphite and experiments with dry ice.

On Oct. 11, Schmedake and Kocherga visited Bell and Carver’s classroom with a host of hands-on activities “that were related to various subjects they have already covered in their 8th grade science class,” Kocherga explained. On Nov. 11, the four will share their experiences at the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS) with scientists, educators and students in a presentation called “Teachers in the Lab:  A Research Experience with Fluorescent Dyes in Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs).”  Finally, on Nov. 15, Schmedake and Kocherga will return to Bell and Carver’s 8th grade science students to continue their project-based learning scientific demonstrations.  

In the end, the research team sought “to break stereotypes about ‘boring science,’ and inspire a new generation to pursue STEM fields and continue advancement in technologies that are used in daily life” as Margaret Kocherga described. The team helped open the young minds at James Martin to a world of possibilities that science provides. It is amazing to see these teachers and scientist inspire the next generation of scientists today to create a better world tomorrow.


Written By: Grayson Hollowell

Photos By: CTI Director- Scott Gartlan