Scenes from Destiny Bus visits. Photos by Dan Sears.

School Kids “Get on Board” with Science

Battina Armstrong’s biology and forensic science classes were on the trail of crooks for two different crimes. One thief had made off with the tempting tiara for the homecoming queen during a pep rally, while another thug had lifted 10 irresistible iPods from several lockers. To catch the thieves, these 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders at Camden County High School needed to use their minds and the lab equipment supplied by this science education outreach initiative of Carolina’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

Once the students boarded the science bus, they became forensic scientists who examined fingerprints, fibers, blood type and DNA evidence to determine each suspect’s guilt or innocence.

“I enjoyed the experiment. It made me feel like a scientist,” said student Amber Pugh after participating in the “Get a Clue” module during a Destiny visit to Camden in November.

That’s what Destiny can do in a 90-minute visit with one of its two Carolina blue custom-built, 40-foot, 33,000-pound buses – bring the latest science and technology equipment to students who otherwise would not see a high-tech laboratory and make them feel like scientists.

The Destiny (which stands for Delivering Edge-Cutting Science Technology and Internet Across North Carolina for Years to Come) program first hit the road in 2000 to address the state’s science education crisis. Many of North Carolina’s secondary schools, particularly those in rural areas, lack access to the resources essential for quality science education, resulting in fewer students pursuing science careers, more science teachers leaving the profession and the decline of economic development prospects for these communities.

So the two buses – Destiny and Discovery –– bring the curriculum and the equipment to where they are needed throughout the state. “Get a Clue” is only one of Destiny’s 14 curriculum modules, all of which are aligned with the N.C. Standard Course of Study. Other subjects covered include evolution, sickle cell disease, environmental toxins and obesity The Destiny staff develops all their own curriculum except for two modules created by Boston University School of Medicine CityLab and adapted for Destiny use. Current funders of the Destiny program include the state, the National Center for Research Resources, GlaxoSmithKline, Bio-Rad Laboratories and Medtronic Inc..

Since the Destiny program began, it has helped educate more than 250,000 N.C. students through its traveling science laboratories and innovative curriculum modules. In 2006-2007 alone, Destiny served 7,114 students through lab-based instruction provided by its educators on the traveling labs or in classrooms at 158 schools across North Carolina. Destiny educators also train teachers – 268 of them in 2006-2007 – through professional development workshops to incorporate Destiny’s curriculum modules into their classrooms, which also makes teachers eligible to request school visits from the Destiny traveling science laboratories. Participants range from middle school, high school and community college educators already teaching in North Carolina’s classrooms, to School of Education students and postdoctoral scientists preparing to teach in North Carolina’s schools and universities.

The November visit was the first trip made by Destiny to Camden County High School, in the far northeast corner of the state, and science teacher Battina Armstrong couldn’t be happier. “Destiny provided my students with a wonderful learning experience,” she said. “Destiny allowed my students to see that science can be fun in addition to allowing them to apply real world applications.”

So who committed the crimes? You’ll just have to wait until Destiny or Discovery rolls into your community.

Through its teaching, research and public service, Carolina connects with the people of our state every day in ways that improve lives and build futures.

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 Carnegie Foundation