Young Scientist Program Gives USC Students the Opportunity to Teach at Local Elementary Schools

by,  Kristina Chiu

The Young Scientist Program (YSP) gives USC students the opportunity to teach science to fourth and fifth graders and promotes a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

YSP partners with five schools from the USC family of schools and places USC students, the program’s teaching assistants (TA), into each elementary school.  Every week, each TA delivers a structured science lesson consisting of a lecture and hands-on lab activity in his/her class.

“It’s like a class you would have [at USC],” said Nadine Afari, Director of YSP, “you have a lecture and then you have a lab that goes along with the lecture.”

Each week focuses on a different science topic such as energy or cell biology.  Classes are structured to meet and exceed California Science Content Standards while incorporating the components of STEM into each lesson.

YSP aims to encourage students to pursue careers in STEM fields by making classes enjoyable for them, according Afari. For example, when learning about cells, the kids build a cell using tortillas, marshmallows, and chocolate.  When they are finished, they can then eat their cell.

“When the kids see me they’re always really happy,” said Junior Wendy Fu, a YSP TA, “When I leave, they always ask what we’re doing next week.”

YSP also organizes a studio project each semester to teach students about topics such as energy and motion or health and fitness.  USC professors are present during the studio projects in addition to YSP TA’s.

Studio projects are structured like the program’s classes during the week, with a lecture and a lab section.  However, the lab section is split into four individual labs.  Students are split up into four groups and rotate from lab station to lab station.

Through the program, TA’s are able to gain experience in teaching and improve their abilities in explaining the fundamental science topics they learn. “Seeing the kids eager to learn encourages me to make the best out the program for them,” says Fu.

Students interested in applying for YSP can do so in August next fall.  Applications are available online and at the JEP house.

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