Keith Hautala


UK Scientists Energize Lessons for Local Fourth-Graders

Published: Jun 4, 2014


Video by UK Research Media


LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 4, 2014) — Scientists at the University of Kentucky are making an investment in the future of energy research by going back to school — elementary school.


A partnership between the UK Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) and three Lexington elementary schools aims to kick-start interest in scientific learning at a young age, by putting working scientists into classrooms to lead fourth-graders in hands-on demonstrations and experiments.


The "CAER 101" education program, which began with Russell Cave Elementary School 12 years ago, was expanded this year to include Liberty and Yates as well. CAER scientists presented the same, one-hour lesson to each of the three schools. Their goal was to complement and reinforce “disciplinary core ideas,” part of the new science standards.


The core idea in this instance was "What is energy?" Anne Oberlink, CAER associate research scientist, focused on the many different forms that energy can take.


"We were demonstrating sound energy, light energy and electrical energy," Oberlink said. "We had a coffee can that we put a piece of paper on, so we would tap our fingers on that. Or we had a tuning fork that we would hit and put under water, up to our ear."


Robert Pace, CAER assistant research scientist, demonstrated how collisions transfer energy, using a giant Newton's cradle.


"You might have seen the desktop toys that have the balls that clink back and forth, but mine is a little bit bigger," Pace said. "The energy is always getting transferred around; it doesn’t just disappear. It certainly allows me to really teach the principles that I’m trying to get across in a very visual and hands-on kind of way."


Andy Placido, CAER associate research engineer, focused on how electricity is produced.

"We just basically had a pole with a magnet in the middle and copper wire outside," Placido said. "You flip the magnet in the middle really fast, and you could actually show them on a multimeter that electricity was produced. We took a hand crank and hooked it onto a hobby generator, and we used that to power fans and lights and buzzers."


But that wasn't the only energy being generated in the classroom. Placido says the children's enthusiasm for learning was contagious.


"Once they got into it, they really had good questions — like they wanted to know 'Why does the number sometimes go negative?'" Placido said. "I would get pumped up every time, because you could tell the kids were interested. I am sure that’s what teachers really enjoy, when they see they’re getting through to the kids or the kids are interested in what you’re talking about."


Teachers and scientists alike say they hope that children who participate in the program will come away from the experience not just with a greater appreciation for the work that scientists do, but also a greater desire to "do science" themselves.


"A number of years, I’ve had kids draw what they think a scientist looks like," said Josh Radner, a science teacher at Yates Elementary. "And you’ll see a frizzy-haired white man in a lab coat. Today we had people of all colors. We had men and women, and people speaking with different accents. That’s really neat for (the students), because our kids are very diverse here, so they can see that scientists could look like them."


Liberty Elementary science teacher Kristi Fehr says she wishes she had received a similar introduction to science when she was in elementary school.


"I know when I was a senior in high school I was trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up," Fehr said. "If I had had more opportunities like this it might have been an easier decision."


Jack Groppo, a CAER principal research engineer who has been part of the project from the beginning, shares Fehr's sentiments.


"The reason I do it is because I wish somebody did it for me when I was in school," Groppo said. "That’s my primary motivation. Whenever you can take real engineers and scientists and bring them into a classroom and let children know that real people do these kind of things, right here in your own back yard, I think it makes science more real to them."


CAER 101 has three basic goals: to get scientists into classrooms, to provide experiments that teachers can easily duplicate, and to challenge other groups to do the same kind of outreach.


Groppo says the program is one that can be "pre-packaged" so that it may easily be copied by others.


"We'll give you the resources," he said. "Find a school in your neighborhood and just go do it. It doesn’t take that much time. It’s a phenomenal benefit — to the teachers and especially the students."




MEDIA CONTACT: Keith Hautala, 859-323-2396; 


Employee Educational Assistance Award
Labor Day - Academic Holiday
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Internship Info Session
Student/Faculty/Staff Mixer
Employee Educational Assistance Award
LNFS Presents: The Wolf of Wall Street
Last Day to Add a Class
Last Day to Drop a Course with 80% Refund
UK Volunteer Fair
LNFS Presents: Children of Men
LNFS Presents: How To Train Your Dragon 2
Black and Latino Male Initiative
Advance Your Swagger: A Night with Fonzworth Bentely
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Northern Iowa
Kentucky Volleyball vs. USC
LNFS Presents: Spirited Away
LNFS Presents: Mulan
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Kentucky Football vs. Ohio
#maxfest (Ukirklex Campus Ministry)
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Creighton
Lets Swing Dance!
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Morehead State
Diversity Organization's Council
Kosher/Soul? (Jewish, African American & Appalachian culture Fuse)
Working Moms Connection
Job Club - Job Search Strategies for Fall
Rock Star Professionalism Series
Massage on the Go
College: Do the Right Thing- A conversation with Dr. Smith
The Future of Islam
LNFS Presents: Fight Club
9/11 Vigil
UKNABJ presents: Ferguson, Missouri: A look at media, politics and black youth in the U.S.
LNFS Presents: Mr & Mrs Smith
Duo Damiana, Molly Barth and Dieter Hennings
LNFS Presents: 22 Jump Street
LNFS Presents: Searching For Sugarman
LNFS Presents: Sin City
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Men's Soccer vs. ETSU
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Pepperdine
Kentucky Week Farmer's MarCat and Craft Fair
Majestic U.N.I.T.Y.
Justice Delayed not Justice Denied: A Talk with Dough Jones
PRHBTN Gallery Reception and Concert
Men's Soccer vs. Xavier
Chellgren Seminar Series: Buck Ryan
Internship Info Session
Last Day to Drop a Course Without Appearing on Transcript
Caregiver Support Group
LNFS Presents: The Immigrant
Big Blue Commonwealth
LNFS Presents: Watermark
LNFS Presents: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Ryan Gardner Guest Trumpet Recital
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Lipscomb
LNFS Presents: A Band Called Death
LNFS Presents: Prisoners
The Case for Fossil Fuels-PEIK Seminar
Men's Soccer vs. Furman
Rock Climbing @ Red River Gorge
College of Pharmacy Open House
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Xavier
Diana Ferrus: 'Writing poetry has allowed me to live': Cultural Resistance in South Africa
Kentucky Law Schools Forum
Pinterest Party
University of Kentucky Chamber Winds
Employer Showcase
Job Club - 10 Questions to Ask Prior to Starting a Business
Men's Soccer vs. Lousville
Employer Showcase
Last Day to Drop a Course with 50% Refund
UK Elder Care Lunch & Learn
BPH Open House
Documentary Film Screening - Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis
LNFS Presents: Saving Mr. Banks
LNFS Presents: Culture Jam
LNFS Presents: Maleficent
LNFS Presents: Ponyo
LNFS Presents: The Little Mermaid
Opening Night Bohemiam Festival
White Water Rafting @ Chattooga River
Women's Soccer vs. Mississippi State
White Water Rafting @ Chattooga River
Kentucky Football vs. Vanderbilt
Free Saturday Swing Dance Lessons
Green Apple Day of Service: "Pick It Up"
Swing Dancing!
White Water Rafting @ Chattooga River
UK Chorale
Dirty Dancing Trip
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Auburn
#TrendingTopics: Immigration Reform
Apollo Duo - Flute and Percussion Guest Recital

Tue, 09/23/2014

Repeats every day until Wed Sep 24 2014 .
Tue, 09/23/2014

Reset Page