Students Will Learn by Teaching at Local School
Though Smith College students will be the instructors next
week in a collaborative program between the college and Northampton
High School (NHS), they will also be learning first-hand
all that teaching science entails.
Ten Smith students will
conduct classes for 150 ninth-grade biology students at
the high school as interns in a partnership between the
college’s Center for Molecular Biology
(CMB) and the local school.
Students work with an array of high-tech equipment in
Christine White-Ziegler's biology lab.
As with teaching of any subject, they will exercise a spectrum
of pedagogical skills. But as teachers of molecular biology,
they will also learn how to employ a range of technological
tools and machinery while imparting the intricacies of this
“This internship is a great opportunity for our Smith
undergraduates to explore teaching and see if it might be
a future career for them,” said Christine White-Ziegler,
associate professor of biological sciences, who is supervising
the internship program. “The interns will be involved
in all aspects of teaching and prepping the labs, giving
lectures, leading activities and providing one-on-one help
The interns will lead
a three-day experiment in which the NHS students will isolate
their own DNA and demonstrate genetic differences that
determine their ability to taste a bitter substance—a
method popularized by Robert Merritt, professor of biological
sciences at Smith.
The NHS students will conduct the experiment in their high
school classrooms for two days, then visit Smith on Friday,
Jan. 16, where they will complete the experiment and tour
the college’s Life Science Centers: the CMB, the Center
for Microscopy (CMI) and the Center for Proteomics (CFP).
“We are excited that we can enrich the curriculum
for the NHS students with these cutting-edge molecular biology
techniques,” said White-Ziegler. “Their visit
to Smith will expose them to the scientific instrumentation
that allows detailed visualization of the molecular and cellular
structures involved in their sense of taste.”
NHS students will have the opportunity to visualize the
chemical structure of the molecules that give taste to food
using the mass spectrometer in the CFP, the ultrastructure
of tongue tissue using the electron and fluorescent microscopes
in the CMI, and the techniques for sequencing DNA in the
Smith interns will be supervised and assisted in their teaching
by White-Ziegler, as well as the instrumentation and techniques
instructors in the Life Sciences Centers: Wen Li in the CMB;
Mona Kulp, CFP; and Judith Wopereis, CMI.
In addition to teaching, the interns will have opportunities
to interact with the high school teachers about their career
paths, and observe their classes, noted White-Ziegler.
The collaborative program
is being funded by a grant to Smith from the Howard Hughes
Medical Institute that supports the college’s science
outreach and the Life Sciences Centers.