By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services
Eighth-graders at C.M. Eppes Middle School hope to find out if a backyard weed actually contains some beneficial ingredients.
Their teacher, Jennifer Stalls, an East Carolina University alumna and graduate student in the College of Education, brought the real-world research question to her science classes as a participant in the Kenan Fellows Program for Curriculum and Leadership Development.
Stalls is one of 42 educators from across North Carolina who completed a five-week summer research experience and two weeks of professional development as part of the annual program.
Stalls worked in the genomics and microbiology lab at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences with mentor Dr. Julia Stevens, who is studying the symbiotic relationship between invasive plants and bacteria in nitrogen fixing. The process is needed to convert gaseous nitrogen into forms that can be used by living organisms.
Stalls created a curriculum for her students to contribute to Stevens’ research by studying regional invasive species that could potentially replenish bacteria in crop fields.
Among the discoveries students are making is the notion that they like science.
“I like that you can make so many things, so many discoveries with science. I like the medicine part of science,” said student Virginia Rahilly.
Stalls is one of six ECU alumni in the 2015-16 class of Kenan Fellows. Others and the schools where they teach are: Christopher Clark ’13, Chicod School in Pitt County; Taylar Flythe ’12, Ligon Magnet Middle School in Wake County; Denise Humphries ’93, Chinquapin Elementary School in Duplin County; Amy Kennedy ’07, Beulaville Elementary School in Duplin County; Julianna Martinez-Schultz ’10, Moore Square Magnet Middle School in Wake County.
The Kenan Fellows Program was established in 2000 as the signature K-12 STEM education initiative of the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science at N.C. State University.
Kenan Fellows are given opportunities for networking, professional growth and leadership development. For more information, visit www.kenanfellows.org.
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