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Center for Science Outreach

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About the CSO

The Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach (CSO) has worked for over two decades to enhance the learning and teaching of science by creating innovative programs that connect scientists with the K-12 community and the public at large. Programs range from summer science camps for middle school students to family science nights to formal instruction in classrooms. The common thread in all of these activities is the involvement of scientists and “scientists in training” in working with educators at all levels to raise STEM literacy, and to excite students about pursuing STEM majors and careers. The CSO currently employs 17 fulltime staff, including 12 Ph.D. scientists, who provide instructional and administrative support. 


CSO Programs

  • The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt (SSMV) is a joint venture between Vanderbilt University and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) that offers high school students a four-year, interdisciplinary, research-centered learning experience. Twenty-six students per class in grades 9-12 attend SSMV on the Vanderbilt cam CSO home pus one day per week, progressing from class-wide projects covering all STEM disciplines to individual research projects in university laboratories. Ph.D. scientists serve as fulltime instructors.
  • The Interdisciplinary Science and Research Program (ISR) - CSO scientists and MNPS teachers have developed a four-year, research-focused curriculum, which is being implemented in two metro high schools, Stratford and Hillsboro. Other scientist-teacher teams do pre-ISR work with lower grades. As with SSMV, Vanderbilt faculty, postdocs and graduate students participate as guest instructors and research mentors.
  • Summer Science Camps for Middle School Students: One-week hands-on science camps for middle school girls (GAS) and boys (BEST) are held each summer on the Vanderbilt campus. Staffed by scientists and teachers, the camps also engage university faculty, postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students as volunteer presenters.
  • Six-week summer research internships are offered annually for rising 12th graders and high school science teachers to work in a Vanderbilt laboratory through the Research Experience for High School Students (REHSS) and Research Experience for High School Teachers (REHST) programs. Additional student support is provided through weekly seminars on scientific reading, writing, and presentation. Students present their work at a summer high school research symposium.
  • Through the Scientist in the Classroom Partnership (SCP) program, graduate students and postdocs spend one day per week for one year co-teaching with a K-12 teacher. Scientists gain important teaching and communication skills, teachers gain confidence in teaching science as well as science content, and K-12 students show increased excitement about - and achievement in - science.
  • Family Science Nights: Overthe past six years, the CSO has worked with local schools and community organizations to host science nights to engage K-12 students and their families. Postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students from multiple universities volunteer to present hands-on activities to over 300 MNPS students and their families.
  • For almost 15 years, the CSO has worked with MNPS to develop and implement innovative Professional Development Workshops for K-12 Teachers through the Vanderbilt Science Support Center (VSSC). The physical center of this initiative is a CSO teaching and learning laboratory housed in MNPS’s Martin Professional Development Center.
  • Seventh and eighth grade students in the  Day of Discovery Program are immersed  in a research-based curriculum at Stratford High School one day a week. Students from Bailey and Litton Middle Schools get to learn through hands-on experimentation led by Vanderbilt scientists. The program is in the process of expanding to include middle school students in the Hillsboro cluster as well. 


CSO partnerships

The Center for Science Outreach strives to development partnerships with many businesses, universities, foundations, and organizations throughout the U.S. Some of these are shown below.
CSO partnerships