Science and Math Achiever Teams - or SMArT for short - started at Southwestern University in the Spring of 2007 and just celebrated its 20th semester of programming with a poster achievement party featuring the inquiry-based projects of nine elementary school students.

The program exists as a partnership between Southwestern and the YMCA after school program (directed by Dr. Jan Williams) that operates within the Georgetown Independent School District.  Each semester, a new set of 9-12 elementary school students in the 3rd through 5th grade come to Southwestern once a week to work with their mentors on a question of their choosing.  This semester’s program involved students from Mitchell Elementary. The program culminates with the mentor and student putting together a poster presentation that is shared with the campus community.  The Department of Biology, particularly staff member Christy Schaller, and the Office of Community Engaged Learning with Director Dr. Sarah Brackmann, both provide logistical support for the program.

In the opinion of Dr. Romi Burks, the program’s founder, “SMArT represents a great way for science students to get involved in community partnerships and realize the importance of inspiring inquiry at an early age, especially as our curriculum in the natural sciences at Southwestern shifts to emphasize this learning approach.  I also think that our students need to be able to communicate the basics of science and asking questions in SMArT forces that skill development.  Often mentors learn right alongside the kids.”

This semester’s questions included:

How do various chemicals affect different types rocks?

How do geckos climb walls?

How does bacteria react to chemicals?

How can solar power can be turned into an energy?

What types of energy and motion are being used in the robot?

What are some forensic techniques and how do they work?

Why do termites follow ink pen mazes and how long does it take them to finish various mazes?

How does the sheep heart function?

How does a dogfish shark compare to a human?

The Program runs through the leadership of Biology majors and Day Coordinators Claire Schumann and Greer Miller with the added help of Abby Toppins.  

Fall 2016 SU Mentors included: 

Mary Cavanagh 

Callie Haworth 

Allison Riggs 

Jiyoun Ahn

Mauro Garcia 

Austin Baker 

Shannon Walsh

Julie Han

Parker Wilson

SMArT is made possible through an endowment provided by the W. D. Kelley Foundation and will continue with its 21st semester in the Spring of 2017.  Any SU students interested in being involved should email Day Coordinator Claire Schumann.  Any others interested in the details of SMArT, can also read more about it in this publication or inquire with an email to Dr. Romi Burks.

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