DoD STEM Ambassador, Dr. Carlise Bethel Shares Her Thoughts
The Mobile eXploration Lab (MXLab) added new lessons to its curriculum including hypersonics, which help students understand how heat flows via different materials and situations. Recently, the MXLab made a stop at Charles Herbert Flowers science and technology magnet High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland where organic chemistry students of Dr. Carlise Bethel participated in the hypersonics lessons.
Dr. Bethel is one of the DoD STEM Ambassadors and currently teaches high school biology. Prior to teaching, she earned her doctorate in molecular and cell biology from UMBC as a Meyerhoff Graduate Fellow and then held several research roles. She first learned about the program through an Instagram post from Learning Undefeated. After researching the program, she knew she wanted to be a part of it. What she enjoys most about being a STEM Ambassador are the opportunities to collaborate with other teachers. Dr. Bethel noted, “this program is opening the door to what’s possible and highlights that there are organizations beyond my school that will support me.”
She enjoys meeting teachers in related disciplines which also helps her connect the dots for her students. Careers in science today rely on several disciplines working together to achieve a goal, and networking with other like-minded teachers helps her better understand trends. Exposing students to different areas of science and teaching the lessons in a fun and engaging way is key to encouraging them to consider STEM as a career path.
Initially, Dr. Bethel thought this lesson might be a little too advanced for her students, but she was impressed with how quickly the students got to work and even got a little competitive with each other as they conducted the activities. While the students are in high school, they were immediately intrigued that one of the activities included Play-Doh, which they had to wait to use until the end. The mix of hands-on activities, computer simulations, and the ability to make observations held their attention throughout. The students experienced how different materials affect heat transfer and the speed at which temperature changes among these materials. One example was observing how quickly ice cubes would melt in mugs made of different materials, aluminum, glass, stainless, steel, and ceramic while on a heat plate. Despite her initial hesitation, Dr. Bethel noted, “it was a good lab to get the students thinking outside of the box and everyone completed all the questions, recorded the data and followed the activity well.”
Reflecting further on the MXLab experience, Dr. Bethel appreciates that this program “provides unique opportunities with life and computer sciences and math coming together in so many ways, there are lots of job opportunities for STEM students, right out of high school.” While Dr. Bethel grew up in a military family, she understands that the military may not be a fit for everyone, but the Department of Defense (DOD) has many needs for individuals with STEM skills. Participating in programs like this illustrates how students can think about a career differently.
She also shared that it is an opportunity for students to learn differently than in a traditional classroom setting. Having an alternate instructor exposes the students to different teaching styles and helps the students learn from someone new which may spark interest in science careers. Most importantly, the lessons were memorable and demonstrated how learning STEM skills can be fun and useful.
Learn more about Learning Undefeated’s MXLab and the current curriculum available for students.