Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Basic and Applied Sciences recently welcomed dozens of outstanding students from the Riverdale High School Honors College.
A first-time partnership between MTSU and the Riverdale program will, potentially, be a springboard for future visits from Riverdale and “a model” for collaborations with other area high schools, said Greg Van Patten, dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.
With assistance from their students in some cases, MTSU science faculty gave the Riverdale students a different perspective from their regular high school classes.
Kimberly Cerchiaro, a Riverdale Honors College coordinator involved in advanced placement at the school, said many of the 50 students who participated shared “rave reviews” from their visit.
“It was very enlightening. And all of our teachers learned a lot, too,” Cerchiaro said. “This opens a lot of avenues for how math and science can impact learning when you get to a university.”
Riverdale’s Honors College has a stated mission “to offer opportunities to specialize in academics with a focus on college and career success.” Students who are admitted must complete 20 service hours each year and take a minimum of three honors, advanced honors, advanced placement, dual-enrollment or dual credit courses per year.
While visiting MTSU, the Riverdale students could choose to investigate biology, chemistry, geosciences, mathematics, engineering technology, and physics and astronomy.
MTeach’s STEM teacher education program, quantum computing, the physics of flight, and lunar rovers, or moon buggies also were among the sessions available to them.
“Everything went smoothly,” said Van Patten. “It was a chance for Riverdale students to see almost science-fiction kind of things that’s different from our everyday life.
“We wanted them to get out of their usual routine, have fun and learn things in a new way — things they wouldn’t have an opportunity to learn in their high school classroom.”
Ground-penetrating radar, or GPR, was the “science fiction” aspect to which Van Patten referred that nine Riverdale students learned about from Zada Law, director of the Department of Geosciences’ Geospatial Research Center/Fullerton Laboratory for Spatial Technology.
“I talked about the ground-penetrating radar and how it is used in archaeology and other professions,” said Law, who was assisted by Clelie Peacock, who performed undergraduate work at MTSU and is a University of Southern Mississippi graduate student.
“As an archaeologist, Clelie knows a lot about GPR and was invaluable today in educating the high school students about how to interpret the readings from the machine,” Law added.
Law said Peacock moved back to Murfreesboro to write a thesis and work on a grant for MTSU’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology from the Tennessee Wars Commission.
“We do plan making this an annual event,” said Riverdale’s Cerchiaro, an MTSU alumna with bachelor’s degrees in English and education and a master’s degree in English.
The visitors were quite impressed with the School of Concrete and Construction Management and the department’s new building and plan to make a separate visit there, she added.
Five Riverdale interdisciplinary faculty members — English, science, math, English as a second language, and gifted education — attended with the students.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)