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May-June, 2004 - VOLUME 3, NUMBER 3

Two Years of Educational Outreach Prove Successful

Marybeth McAlister
UK Center for Applied Energy Research

Two years ago the UK Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) began an educational outreach program with Russell Cave Elementary here in Lexington, Kentucky. We are partnering with Russell Cave to strengthen its science curriculum by introducing hands-on experiments and demonstrations. CAER researchers go to the fourth-grade classes biweekly throughout the school year to lead experiments that complement the science curriculum being studied by the two classes. With the scientists' help, the fourth graders have created invisible ink, made generators and thermometers, extracted color from leaves and studied coal and other minerals.

Photograph of Russell Cave Elementary School (1901). Fayette County Schools Photographic Collection; Housed at University of Kentucky Special Collections and Archives.
Russell Cave classroom Geology in the classroom Hands on in the classroom CAER scientists demonstrate the properties of Liquid Nitro End of year celebration on CAER grounds

The University of Kentucky takes educational outreach very seriously and has included it as a goal in the current Strategic Plan. Our program reaches about 40 students. We hope that our program can serve as a model for other research centers, academic departments, businesses and government labs. It has not cost much, other than a few materials and our researchers' time. The researchers' time is valuable, but the preparations done in the first year meant little preparation was necessary for the second.

Elementary school teachers would like to see more science emphasized in their curriculum but often do not have the additional resources and time to devote to science instruction. This is particularly true for "hands-on" experiments that illustrate concepts and theories.

We celebrated the academic year's end by hosting the students and teachers at the lab for a field trip. They got to see the researchers at work in their own environment. They learned how chemists, engineers, and geologists use science on a daily basis. We hope the program will continue indefinitely.

Ms. McAlister can be reached at: mcalister@caer.uky.edu