News (Blog)

This page serves as a mini blog for news and announcements relating to ASU STEM Outreach efforts. Please subscribe to posts if you want to be kept informed of what's going on in this area and feel free to comment on posts.

Visit to the Geology Museum with Dr. Heckert

posted Oct 10, 2013, 8:04 PM by Marta Toran   [ updated Oct 13, 2013, 7:53 AM ]

A couple of days ago I met with Dr. Andrew Heckert, associate professor in the Geology Department at ASU and one of the prominent vertebrate paleontology experts in the state. Dr. Heckert's research interests include micro and macrovertebrates (small and large fossils) and biostratigraphy, or the use of fossils to tell geologic time and establish the ages of rocks. In addition to his research which spans across North America, Dr. Heckert teaches courses in historical geology, evolution of the Earth and dinosaurs. More information about his research can be found on his website:

Dr. Heckert is also the director of the McKinney Geology Teaching Museum which he gave me a tour of. The Geology Museum serves as a teaching facility for college-level geology but it is also open to K-12 groups and the general public. Hundreds of school children and their teachers visit it every year. It is staffed by faculty members of the Geology department and students. The outreach program offered includes a tour of the indoor exhibits which consist of hundreds of rock samples and fossils and a walk through the outdoor rock garden. The Rock Wall is also not to be missed, an exhibit featuring 107 rocks from the Appalachian area. In addition, students are available as tutors and experts to answer questions as part of the Answersphere.

The rock garden, called The Fred Webb Jr. Outdoor Geology Lab, is an awesome collection of huge rocks placed along a path outside, you can also check it out virtually here. The interactive map of the garden includes the 36 rocks, all clickable with information about their properties, age and where they came from. It is a great resource for teachers to use with students before and after their visit. During their visit an expert will guide them around the rocks and they museum also provides a scavenger hunt activity to engage the students.

In addition to his outreach work through the teaching museum, Dr. Heckert also gives public lectures such as his very popular dinosaur ones, part of the Science Seminars sponsored by the Math and Science Education Center at ASU. He also holds adjunct positions at the North Carolina, Virginia and New Mexico natural science museums to which he has contributed specimens that he himself has collected around the world.

Dr. Heckert's Weblinks

McKinney Geology Teaching Museum

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

Virginia Museum of Natural History

ASU @ the Avery County Science Extravaganza

posted Oct 2, 2013, 6:22 PM by Marta Toran

Parents and students analyzing evidence.
ASU had a strong presence this year at the second annual Avery Science Extravaganza at Avery Middle School last week (09/26/2013). We had six tables set up: two microscopy tables sponsored by Dr. Coffey's lab, two forensic anthropology tables supervised by Dr. Robbin's anthropology students and two more tables with other forensic science activities. Equipment for the exhibits was loaned by App State's Dr. Anoufriev, Dr. Puckett, Dr. Geib and the Math and Science Education Center.

Some of the stations set up included:
  • Identifying skeletal remains,
  • Measuring bones using an osteometric board and sliding calipers,
  • Using the humerus and ulna to determine a person's height and weight,
  • Fingerprint analysis and classification
  • Dusting and lifting fingerprints,
  • Hair microscopy analysis,
  • Matching known prints and hair samples to crime scene evidence.
  • Looking at crystals under light microscopes
  • Looking at pollen with a portable SEM and learning about how an electron microscope works.

For kids who wanted to participate, there was a scavenger hunt of "Science Mysteries" hidden around the different stations. This was a way to engage the students a bit longer at each station and talk to the "expert" scientists.

Both students and parents became very involved in the scavenger hunt. A couple of the mysteries revolved around a Romanov Case we had created in which participants had to determine whether the bones found at a Georgia home belonged to Princess Anastasia whose body was never found.  There was also a case of fish-napping which participants had to try to solve. A bag of science goodies was raffled off among students who had the most answers correct. This year's winner at Avery Science Extravaganza was AMS student Ellie K. in Gibbs' 7th Grade but there were plenty of high scorers!

Setting up and supervising the different activities took a lot more work and people than anticipated. The event would not have been as successful if it wasn't for students Eleaine Blevins, Ashely Green, Amie Goerlich, Megan Walsh, Sydney Allison and Tristan Gaddis who helped with every aspect of it from set up to taking the exhibits down. Thanks to all!

Check out the complete slide show below...

Avery Science Night

-Set up should be more streamlined
-Find out table length and number of outlets/ power cords prior to event
-Consider what to do about poor lighting
-Each activity/ station should only take students 2-3 minutes, otherwise they lose attention
-There should be at least one helper/ supervisor per activity

Ready for the Avery Science Extravaganza

posted Sep 25, 2013, 8:28 AM by Marta Toran   [ updated Sep 25, 2013, 9:58 AM ]

The Avery Science Extravaganza is tomorrow and we have been busy getting some ASU tables ready to go. A huge thanks to Dr. Robbins (ASU Department of Anthropology) we will have a Forensic Anthropology table organized and staffed by her lab manager Elaine Blevins helped by a couple of other students. Kids will get to dig for bones, examine the replicas, measure and identify them.  Thank you also to Dr. Anoufriev (ASU Department of Health and Exercise Sciences) for providing hip replicas for male and female comparisons, a skull with a bullet hole and one for showing how facial reconstruction is carried out by forensic investigators.

Dr. Geib (ASU Biology Dept.), Dr. Puckett (ASU Chemistry Dept.) and the Math and Science Education Center have graciously provided the materials for the other Forensics table, which will include fingerprinting stations and hair microscopy. The kids will get to lift fingerprints from objects using real forensic industry equipment and analyze hair samples to solve a fish-napping case.

Dr. Coffey (ASU Physics Dept.) will have an electron microscopy table set up with her portable electron microscope. Not too many people are able to experience electron microscopy "live", so this is an amazing opportunity for the kids.

Pictures of the event to come!

Visit to the Math and Science Education Center at ASU

posted Sep 19, 2013, 8:54 PM by Marta Toran   [ updated Sep 19, 2013, 9:40 PM ]

Math and Science Education Center at App State University (housed at Reich College of Education)
The MSEC also includes FOSS kits.

Yesterday I was able to stop by the Math and Science Education Center, located in the New College of Education building at App State. The MSEC sponsors teacher workshops, Family Science Nights, Family Math Nights and many other outreach programs. They put out a Fall and a Spring newsletter with all the upcoming happenings. There is a Science Lecture Series that runs through out the semester that is free to the public and follows an overarching theme. For example, this Fall 2013 the theme is: "Incremental Changes and Paradigm Shifts in Scientific Knowledge that Improve Our Understanding of the Natural Word." Check out the details of scheduled lectures here.
The Math and Science Ed Center includes many biological models.

The main feature of the MSEC is their Math and Science library and resource room, which includes all sorts of kits local teachers can check out. The resources are more geared towards K-8, but a wide range of topics covered nonetheless and some great materials from full sized skeletons, to rock collections, to math blocks and the very popular robotics kits. A list of resources available can be found on their website (here for Science and here for Math). A huge thank you to Vickey Isaacs for her help during my visit and making the process of borrowing equipment for the Avery County Science Fair extremely easy, and to Dr. Johnson for helping me load the car.

Added bonus: I picked up 6 Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches to take over to Cove Creek School. They were a huge hit. I'd never kept them as pets but Vickey knows everything about them and gave me loads of useful information about hissing cockroach husbandry.


Avery Country Science Extravaganza (9/26/2013)

posted Sep 16, 2013, 6:53 PM by Marta Toran   [ updated Sep 16, 2013, 8:16 PM ]

Coming next week...

"Avery Middle School will be hosting a Science Extravaganza for all Avery County students grades pre-K-12, September 26 from 5 to 7 pm. Community organizations and businesses are invited to participate and set up a table to showcase how Science is used in their field of study. Posters, demonstrations and live materials would be strongly recommended. This information can assist students in quality Science Fair and STEM projects. 
Please contact April C. at AMS for questions and further information. "
(From the school's Facebook page)

There will be a couple of people going from ASU, including Dr. Tonya Coffey who will be bringing a portable electron microscope to introduce the kids to electron microscopy. For more information about her awesome mobile nanoscience laboratory outreach program, click here.

We are trying to round up a few more people to represent ASU's STEM outreach at the event, please contact me if you can attend and help out with a table. This would be a great opportunity for graduate students or aspiring student teachers (will look great on your resume too)!

Find the directions to Avery Middle School below.

Avery Middle School, 102 Old Montezuma Rd, Newland, NC

Project Underway!

posted Sep 16, 2013, 6:50 PM by Marta Toran   [ updated Sep 16, 2013, 6:51 PM ]

We are launching our STEM Partnerships @ ASU Project (Sep.2013 Edition) this week. The initial phase will consist of gathering as much information as we can about existing STEM outreach programs and resources at App State: what's offered where, ongoing vs seasonal programs, obsolete programs, new additions this year, etc. We will also start contacting STEM teachers in K-12 schools in Watauga and neighboring counties about their use of STEM outreach, needs and wishes for resources, attitudes about guest speakers and so on. This will probably be in the form of a survey.

If you have any questions or comments at this point, please contact me (Marta Toran) at Let some great partnerships continue and new ones begin...

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