Inspiring students with science

“I know you know the answers to this,” Paul Skrade recently told a Des Moines seventh grader who was diagraming the parts of corn kernel. “You’re doing awesome today, dude.”

Skrade – friendly, chatty and energetic – certainly knows his way around a science lesson. He’s an Iowa State University doctoral student studying ecology and evolutionary biology. And he’s a fellow of Symbi, a program that places Iowa State graduate students in Des Moines middle and high school science classrooms.

Symbi is the only program of its kind in the state. It’s part of a National Science Foundation effort to put graduate students studying science, technology, engineering and math into K-12 classrooms.

The program’s primary goal is to teach the graduate students how to communicate their science. Another benefit is the chance to inspire school students and their teachers with the excitement and importance of science, engineering and university research.

Tom Garrison, an Iowa State doctoral student in chemistry who helps in high school science classrooms, applauds the Symbi program for “putting a face on science.”

“I never met an engineer until I went to go get an engineering degree,” Garrison said. “And I never really talked to a scientist until I went to college. I think that’s too late.”

Read more about Iowa State's Symbi program in a Nov. 1 news release.