How A Rural Teacher Helped Inspire The Next Generation Of Scientist

Deborah Cornelison, a veteran science teacher from rural Bing, Oklahoma, teaches science differently than other teachers. The first thing is to get children motivated by allowing them to choose which topics to investigate.
The children then must think like scientists, observing, questioning, and conduct research. Research projects also teach problem-solving and resilience. A child develops citizenship skills and a sense of social responsibility.

Using these teaching points, Cornelison has helped and encouraged many students, who have gone on to win at science fairs. Courtney Cowley won 4th place at the Intel Science Fair in 2004, with a research project on the effect of fungi on indoor air. In 2008 a group of students entered a science fair with a research project on what the best shade would be.

The students of the 2008 shade project investigated what materials would make the best shade. They fundraised to get a beige canopy. The canopy still hangs in the outside area of Bing’s high school.

Miss Cornelsions science students have helped the school in many other ways as well. The students have changed the heating and cooling practices to reduce carbon dioxide and lobbied for healthier food options. The students have also come up with stronger school emergency plans that inspired state law.

Miss Cornelson achieved all this in a town of about 1,000, with limited resources, and a state that had cut its spending on schools 23.6 percent. Miss Cornelson is no longer a science teacher. She now advocates the importance of STEM and hands-on learning with her new job at the Oklahoma Department of Education.