Mark Sellers, a senior physics major and Spanish minor, spent the summer researching different methods of teaching science through his internship with the Society of Physics Students (SPS) in Washington, D.C. For 10 weeks, Sellers and one other intern worked to create and test a set of core activities for this year’s Science Outreach Catalyst Kit (SOCK). The kit consists of a set of hands-on, exploratory activities and demonstrations that will be sent out to SPS chapters to use in outreach presentations at elementary, middle and high schools.
SPS helps students transform themselves into contributing members of the professional community. The organization has roughly 700 chapters in schools across America, and Rhodes has had one since the late 1960s.
Having served as communications officer for the Rhodes chapter, Sellers was familiar with the organization’s national internship in D.C. and eager to apply after hearing of the opportunity from his advisor, Dr. Brent Hoffmeister. Since his first year at Rhodes, Sellers has been working with Hoffmeister on developing an ultrasonic method for detecting osteoporosis. This research experience combined with his previous internship at the Pink Palace Museum, where Sellers wrote science programs for Memphis-area elementary and middle school students, made him and ideal candidate for the position.
Sellers’ research goal as an intern was to test activities that explored how light is used as a tool. These tests were conducted with D.C. focus groups including summer camps, daycares, and a teacher workshop. Through these studies, Sellers was able to obtain professional opinions of teachers going through training as well as collect information about what grabbed students’ attention and kept them interested. He then wrote an explanation on how to perform the activities effectively, which will be shared with SPS chapters nationwide.
Sellers says the interactions helped him and his peers better understand what they need to do as teachers to better grab students’ attention. “It’s not the students’ job as much as it is teachers’ job to make science accessible for them,” adds Sellers.
The Rhodes chapter will receive a SOCK for events in Memphis. Sellers hopes that his research will help Rhodes students to understand how science outreach events work and how to be good teachers.
Sellers is interested in applying to graduate school and pursuing a Ph.D. in physics. Sellers says that he could definitely see himself teaching and “would ultimately love to become more involved in science advocacy.” “For now, I want to continue to do my part in furthering science education and awareness, as well as learn more of the skills required to be a capable teacher.”
Sellers is a graduate of Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, MO.
(information compiled by Rhodes Student Associate Sophie Anderson ’15)