Helping My Garden Vegetables, and My Students, Bloom Where They Are Planted

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Middle school is the perfect time to plant the seed for a child to grow a lifelong love of science. That’s why I love being a middle school teacher.

While I know these experiments are valuable, my school doesn’t have much of a budget for science experiments. I spend my own money on supplies for many of my experiments. NIST sent many supplies from the experiments we did in this experience back home with us, and that will be helpful in my classroom.

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2023 – 12:03

Teachers at a seminar wear safety glasses and look into glass flasks while sitting at a table of experiment supplies.
NIST Summer Institute teachers make “elephant toothpaste” during an experiment they can use to teach their students about chemical reactions. In this experiment, hydrogen peroxide serves as the oxidizing agent and decomposes into water and oxygen. Credit: B. Hayes/NIST

Workshop participants stand around a table donning safety gear like glasses and gloves as they prepare to practice an experiment.
Taylor (right) and other NIST Summer Institute participants watch a science experiment demonstration led by NIST’s LaKesha Perry (second from left). Program participants do hands-on demonstrations and hear briefings from NIST researchers over two weeks, both at NIST’s campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and online from around the country. Credit: B. Hayes/NIST

I especially enjoyed learning more about the research behind the building blocks of plastic, known as polymers. There are different instruments to test various polymer properties, such as their elasticity. I can reproduce this in my class using simple machines for my students.

The NIST Summer Institute was an excellent program and really builds a bridge between NIST and educators in the classroom. I’m so excited to get back into my classroom and incorporate everything I learned in this program!

Teaching the whole child

Published Aug. 30, 2023, on the NIST website.


As a teacher in a school where students experience poverty, I do my best to make sure my students can leave problems at the door when they enter my classroom—and maybe imagine an exciting future career in science.

I grew up in Jackson and attended Jackson State University. I was a NIST intern in the summer of 2010 as part of NIST’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). The program helped nurture my love of science, and I still keep in touch with the friends I met there.

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This grant-funded garden will not just be for education; it will also help feed my students, most of whom come from low-income families.

From NIST intern to science teacher

As a teacher, I encourage my students to pursue growth, and I want to make sure I’m growing in my career, too.

I have amenities like a classroom pantry where students can take whatever they need—whether that be a toothbrush or a snack—so they can bring their full attention to my class. I also have a “calm down corner” for kids who are simply having a rough day and need to decompress.


Helping My Garden Vegetables, and My Students, Bloom Where They Are Planted

Getting kids excited about science

We learned about how crystals are aligned and how this contributes to rock formation. This will help me to teach these concepts in the upcoming school year.

The hands-on experiments the researchers walked us through were so valuable. An air quality researcher showed us how to make our own air purifiers with a vent, a fan, and duct tape. I will be doing this hands-on project with my students when we learn about air quality and the environment—particularly relevant after the air quality challenges parts of the country have experienced this summer.

My first year was tough, and I didn’t feel prepared for the challenges I faced (as most teachers will tell you). But now, I have won teaching awards and regularly present on lesson planning and curriculum design to my colleagues.

Summer school for teachers