Fourth grade classes at Burnsville Elementary were awarded a $4,000 grant from the Burrough’s Wellcome Fund last week for a project that will shed light on some of universe’s greatest scientific mysteries.
“Illuminating Light” is a science education initiative which will illumine and capitalize on an innovative opportunity in the community. Through this project, students will be “illuminated” to the invisible properties of light and how those properties interact on earth, on the moon, and in the universe.
Through the purchase of a spectrometer, prisms, lasers, and other demonstrative implements, students will be better engaged in the classroom through inquiry-based learning and experimentation with quality-made science materials.
Additionally, through the purchase of student telescopes and infrared spectacles, students will be invited to special classroom studies after light where they will capitalize on Yancey County’s high elevation and dark skies to observe lunar stages and orbit and how light interacts with the earth and moon.
“So often during class, certain topics require visual representation in order to truly connect with my students,” said fourth grade teacher Steve Grindstaff. “What lags unfortunately is disengagement of the course material. I have seen in many of my students a potential that could only be brought to life if I could find ways to engage them.”
While Yancey County’s geographic isolation and high altitude have limited economic development in the area, these aspects of the county are perfect for dark skies. Partnering with the Blue Ridge Astronomy Group, the school plans to use the awarded materials to host star-gazing events at the school. These activities in the night will be fun and exciting cap-stone events that support the curriculum. (If any students are not able to make the star-gazing event, a special telescope will be purchased that will video record the activity to be seen the next day.)
In the classroom, students will be primed for their star-gazing nights by learning about the properties of light using real science materials and not just lecture-based learning. Seeing with their own eyes the dispersion of light connects with students much more than hearing about it with their ears.
The Burroughs Wellcome Fund was founded in 1955 as the corporate foundation of the pharmaceutical firm Burroughs Wellcome Co. The granting agency is an independent private foundation dedicated to advancing the biomedical sciences by supporting research and other scientific and educational activities.