Like Santa Claus at Christmas time, Jasmine Fowler ’20 and education professor Cheryl Lindeman have been loading up a large bag with items for children to enjoy. But instead of toys, the young students they visit this summer will receive mysterious blocks, puzzles, and other objects meant to stir their curiosity.
Fowler and Lindeman have deemed the mysterious, black Xfinity bag as their “Curiosity Kit,” which is part of a Summer Research project, and an ongoing study by Lindeman on inquiry instructional strategies.
“There’s evidence now that children who are curious and sustain their curiosity that academic achievement improves,” Lindeman said. “So, what I’m trying to hone in on, in the big picture, is how that can fit into the classroom.”
So far, Lindeman and Fowler have come up with multiple lessons to engage students at the Randolph College Nursery School and will coordinate lessons with teachers at New Vistas School this fall. Both the blocks and the puzzles they are using contain magnified images of living and non-living things like insects, plants, and foods, and children are asked to interpret what they see. The beauty, they said, is there are no wrong answers.
“They get a perspective they don’t normally see with the naked eye,” Fowler said. “We want them to make their own connections and have their own understandings of what they’re seeing, even if they don’t necessarily understand what it is right away. Showing them these images when they’re super young gets them excited and shows them a different aspect of science.”
For the project, Fowler has been able to combine several of her talents. Though she has yet to officially declare a major, she aspires to study physics education and become a teacher. She also has a passion for art and has enjoyed the creative, crafting aspect of the project. She can frequently be found at her favorite workspace in the lobby of Leggett Building, sitting at a table covered in art supplies and with a colored pencil in hand.
Fowler took Lindeman’s introductory education class in the spring and was especially intrigued by the idea of conducting research with her after a long conversation during a Lunch and Learn session. She’ll even have the opportunity to present some of their findings at a National Association of Science Teachers conference in Baltimore this fall.
“This whole Summer Research program is the perfect landscape for learning because there are so many things in play, and students can just find their niche,” Lindeman said. “One of my goals with Summer Research is to get Jasmine to network and meet other people in the community too. Randolph really is the ideal learning community, and since it’s more laid back in the summer there really is so much more that we can do.”
Fowler believes she’s in the right place as well. “Randolph was exactly what I was looking for,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to a huge school. I wanted to be part of a small community with a good physics education program, and it worked out perfectly.”