Clarke Elementary students get introduction to world of work

Dec. 05, 2013 @ 11:58 PM

Fifth-grade students at Clarke Elementary School have spent part of this week looking at possible careers in science.

The discussions have been led by a team from the Natural Science Department of Vance-Granville Community College.

“We’re talking about the world of work,” said Laura Fisher, counselor at Clarke Elementary School.

She said relating careers to their schoolwork helps the students answer questions such as, “What can I do with this later?” and “Am I interested in any of this?”

Tonia Davis, media specialist, opened the media center for the college team’s presentations.

During the week, about 65 students, taught by fifth-grade teachers Heide Alston, Carmen Samuels and Shannon Bullock and exceptional child teacher Sheila Wormley, came to the media center along with Stephen McGrady, Brandy Bowling and Button Brady of the college.

McGrady is the chairman of the natural sciences department; Bowling and Brady are biology instructors.

On Thursday, McGrady and Brady led the discussion

McGrady began by asking, “Do any of you have relatives at Vance-Granville?” The response was a chorus of “My mom” and “My grandmother.”

When McGrady asked the students their perceptions of different sciences, he got some perceptive answers. He also got some creative answers, such as, “Is chemistry about when two people are in love?”

“Chemistry is about atoms interacting,” McGrady explained, and said the term can be used when people in love interact.

McGrady led the students through an exercise matching the study of science to careers.

When Scott Pendergrass said, “I want to study dinosaurs,” McGrady explained that would involve geology because dinosaur fossils are found buried in rocks.

Brady gave the students an assignment that uses science in real life, in this instance, using DNA to solve a crime. During a robbery, Brady explained, the perpetrator left blood on the window after breaking the glass to enter the store.

Crime scene investigators analyzed the blood to reveal its DNA fingerprint. Seven suspects were rounded up and DNA samples were obtained by cheek swabs.

The students successfully matched the DNA fingerprint of one of the suspects with the DNA collected at the crime scene to solve the mystery.

Moving to items that might be found in the local environment, Brady displayed an animal skull and asked the students to identify it.

“It’s a deer!” came the answer.

The antlers were a dead giveaway. But Brady added there are other features that identify the type of animal, such as flat surfaces of the teeth that indicate it is a herbivore rather than a carnivore, which would have sharp, pointed teeth.

Brady showed the students a small bone that she identified as a human bone. “Don’t worry,” she said. “It wasn’t anyone you know.”

After the students failed to identify the bone, Brady said it was a vertebra.

“Which of your classes are related to these things?” Brady asked.

After fielding several answers, she said, “Everything you learn you’re going to use.”

She said reading, math and social studies are also used by scientists.

They read very well,” McGrady said of the students after the session was over. “And they were very involved.”

Clarke Street is a science, technology, engineering and mathematics school and is recognized by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction for offering an integrated STEM curriculum.

The stated purpose of STEM education is to give students the learning and skills they will need to succeed in a highly technical global economy.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.