By Caitlin Jennings, Communications Coordinator, Society for Science & the Public
When the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District Board decided in November to close EE Waddell High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, Tamica Stubbs, a science teacher at the school, was worried about the future of her independent science research program. “For the school board to tell you that your school will not even be in existence next year and that all your students will be dispersed into different places, it brought about panic for me,” she says.
Tamica started the program in 2009 with funds and support she received as a Society Fellow. The Society Fellows program, with generous support from Intel, helps teachers who educate underserved populations, like the students at EE Waddell, where 61% are economically disadvantaged and 90% are minorities. However, she now calls the school closure a minor obstacle and says that “the desire for these students to really be a part of this, I think will overcome all of that.”
In the less than two years since the program has started, her students have grown significantly and new students have come on board. They have conducted research involving things such as examining the effects of carbon nanotubes on plants, seeing if an antibiotic can cure gram-negative bacteria without becoming resistant to the medication, and measuring dissolved oxygen in aquatic areas to assess the impact of discarded pharmaceuticals. All their hard work is about to come to fruition.
“Spring time is [science] competition time,” Tamica says. “We enter as many competitions as possible to give them a range of experiences.” Last year, when her students competed at the regional fair against peers who had the benefit of attending magnet schools for science, one team earned a rare spot at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) for a project that examined ways to minimize the effects of the bacteria Wolbachioa in inspects. “That was just such a momentous event for us,” Tamica says, and she hopes to have continued success, despite the school closing.
“I’ve spoken to a couple of schools and they said they are willing to bring the program aboard and those students, which is pretty much unheard of,” Tamica says. “The students are very much willing to follow no matter what the sacrifice is, the distance and what not. I think it shows the power of the program and its ability to bring in students.”