What is Teaching Teams?

Since 1993, the Teaching Teams program has promoted science literacy among high school students and encourages the pursuit of careers in science by introducing students to areas of scientific study through interactive demonstrations brought into the classroom. Teams of graduate and medical students present the curricula in small groups, fostering an atmosphere where the students feel comfortable discussing the specific area of scientific study.

Each Teaching Team has developed hands-on demonstrations that require students to pose their own questions and to find answers through investigation and inquiry. Each year Teaching Teams reach hundreds of students in the Saint Louis Public Schools and other local districts.


Request A Teaching Team Event

Teaching Teams offer free interactive science demonstrations and lessons that are brought directly into your classroom or community event.

YSP is entirely run by volunteers, so we may not be able to process your request immediately. Please allow up to two weeks for a reply.

Returning Spring 2024!

Teaching Teams is currently unavailable as we work to make it better than ever. Please check back soon for more information!


Available Teaching Team Demonstrations

Anatomy & Physiology

The Anatomy & Physiology Teaching Team utilizes real organs from human cadavers to demonstrate the importance of normally-functioning anatomy. We also use clinical examples to describe normal functions as well as dysfunctions of different organ systems that lead to common diseases. Anatomy is the study of the macroscopic organs and tissues of the body in order to understand their functions. This knowledge is critical for anyone who wishes to study people and non-human animals in terms of health, sociology, ecology, anthropology, evolution, behavioral psychology, and many other fields. Physiology is more focused on the finer details of how these organs are able to function using microscopic and biochemical details.

The Heart

The heart is the organ responsible for circulating blood throughout the body and ensures all tissues receive adequate nutrients to sustain their normal function. In this lab, we show and demonstrate how a normally-functioning heart works in the body in terms of the large, anatomic structures as well as the physiology of the electrical phenomena that makes this function possible: the action potential. The students will be shown an electrocardiogram (ECG) to correlate how this information is achieved in a clinical setting. We also demonstrate cardiac auscultation including interpretation of heart sounds and how they correlate to pathology. Students will have the opportunity to use stethoscopes during this demo. Finally, we demonstrate the gross anatomical changes which can take place in various pathological conditions such as hypertension and myocardial infarction.

Heart Auscultation and Cardiac Bioelectricity

Heart Coronary Arteries

Heart General Anatomy

Heart General Pathology

Heart Medical Interventions

Heart Radiology

Heart Valves

EKG Demo with PowerLab26T

The Lungs

The lungs are essential for the efficient gas exchange between the body and the environment which results in the absorption of oxygen and excretion of carbon dioxide from the blood. In this demonstration, we follow the blood as it circulates from one chamber of the heart, to the lung, and back into a separate chamber of the heart. This concept is usually best conveyed after or concurrently with the heart demonstration. We discuss the gross and microscopic structures of the lung which allow oxygen exchange. We then move on to describe lung auscultation along with radiology to correlate clinical findings with disease processes. The students will have the opportunity to use stethoscopes and look at x-ray and CT images of the lung. Finally, we discuss the pathologic changes which take place in the lung tissue during various disease processes such as emphysema and pneumonia.

Basic Lung Anatomy

Lung Function and Physics of Breathing

Lung Radiology and Auscultation

Basic Lung Pathology

The Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract runs from the mouth to the anus and includes several organs thatfacilitate the digestion and absorption of nutrients into the blood. For this lab, we track the system from the mouth, where food digestion begins, to the very last stage where wastes are excreted from the body. We utilize real specimens to describe the major physiological functions of each organ along the GI tract and the specific anatomical features which allow them to perform their tasks. Our specimens include the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver and gallbladder, and pancreas. We also describe several common clinical scenarios relevant to the GI system such as peptic ulcers and pancreatic cancer.

Find Out if You’re a Supertaster

Measuring Your Taste Threshold

Salivary Amylase

Surface Area and Peristalsis

Chemistry

The Chemistry Teaching Team includes chemistry topics that students would be expected to cover in a two-semester introductory high school chemistry course. Each module is designed to fill one class period with hands-on demonstrations and correspond to a unit in the St. Louis Public Schools’ curriculum. One biochemistry module is designed for use in a biology class.

The goals of the Chemistry Teaching Team are the following:

  • Engage high school students in fun, hands-on experiences that illustrate chemical concepts
  • Provide to students exposure to resources unavailable at their schools
  • Present chemistry and other areas of science as viable career options
  • Convey the contributions of chemistry to everyday aspects of life
Enzyme Catalysis

The following experiments demonstrate the nature of enzymes and their respective substrates, with an emphasis on biochemistry. The hands-on Enzyme Catalysis I demo uses toothpicks and the participants’ hands to show temperature effects on enzyme-substrate interactions. Enzyme Catalysis II uses pineapple and jello to demonstrate the properties of digestive enzymes. Each demo should take ~30 minutes.

Enzyme Catalysis I

Enzyme Catalysis II

Enzyme Catalysis III

Polymer Chemistry

Polymers are large cross-linked molecules made up of repeating structural units. They exist artificially as plastics and naturally as DNA, RNA, and proteins. This activity has the participants act as molecules to demonstrate the effects of temperature and cross-linking. It also uses sodium silicate and ethanol to create a gooey polymer ball (~30 minutes).

Polymer Chemistry I-2

Oxidation-Reduction (Redox) Reactions

Redox-oxidation reactions are any chemical reactions that occur when the oxidation state of atoms change. Oxidation is the loss of electrons and reduction is the gain of electrons. One example of a reduction reaction is the tarnishing of silver. This experiment uses hard boiled eggs to tarnish silver and baking soda to reverse the process.

Redox Chemistry

Electron Orbitals

Atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. The electrons orbit the atom in spaces called orbitals. Additional electrons move in orbitals with increasing average distance from the atom’s nucleus. These demonstrations explore the effects of the increased average distance. The Rubber Chicken demonstration shows that an electron jumping from one orbital to another undergoes a specific change in energy. This energy is released as light and turns a Bunsen burner flame different colors. The Periodicity demonstration shows that electrons in higher orbitals are held more loosely and can therefore be removed from the atom more readily. The result of this phenomenon is that calcium metal reacts much more quickly with water than magnesium.

Rubber Chicken

Periodicity

Density

Density is defined as the amount of mass contained in an object per unit volume. The density demonstration contains two experiments that demonstrate how differences in density cause objects to float. The first experiment uses carbon dioxide to cause raisins to float and sink like submarines. Normal raisins collect and hold more carbon dioxide bubbles and therefore float more frequently than chocolate covered raisins because they become less dense. The second experiment uses solutions of glycerol mixed with water to create a liquid rainbow. Glycerol is more dense than water; therefore, mixing different amounts of glycerol and water creates solutions with different densities. When food coloring is added, and the solutions are stacked in order of density, the students will have created a liquid rainbow.

Density

Ecology & Evolution

The Ecology & Evolution Teaching Team introduces students to central principles and theories of evolution and ecology through hands-on activities and hypothesis-driven approaches. Our ten different modules and demonstrations are designed to cover Missouri Science Standards and engage students in new and familiar concepts through activities and discussion that give them lasting impressions of the natural environment in Missouri and the world. Each module fills a single class period, and many can be adjusted for different age groups from elementary to upper level high schools.

Food Webs

Trophic cascades, food web theory, and the keystone species concept are illustrated by connecting the students themselves into a food web. Each student represents a species in a given trophic level, and a ball of yarn is passed through the levels to represent the flow of energy through that system. System stability and the role of specifically local species in the under-studied, Missouri glade habitat, introduce the students to the species that exist, and are restricted to, the threatened prairie glades. There is ample time for discussion and pre- and post-food web activity about related topics.

Food Webs

Fossil Formation

Students will learn about the Law of Superposition and create their own stratigraphic columns using sand, salt, soil, and gummy bears. They will use what they learn from this activity to interpret fossil evidence from the horse and its ancestors. There are 2 different worksheets for different level students.

Fossil Formation (Teacher Handout)

Homology of Forelimbs

Students will learn what homologous structures are by studying the forelimbs of various animals. Using sample, safe dissection tools, students will dissect a chicken wing that has been bleached overnight. Students will determine if the chicken wing is homologous to the forelimbs of other animals by examining and sketching the wing’s underlying bone structure. Specifically, students are asked to identify the humerus, radius, and ulna of the chicken wing and compare it to pictures of homologous bone structures from whales, frogs, horses, lions, humans, and bats. In discussion, students are asked how these structures are similar and different, whether these structures are homologous in structure and/or function, and how homology is evidence for evolution.

Homology of Forelimbs

Island Biogeography

The theory of Island Biogeography examines the factors that affect species richness, or species numbers,in isolated communities. The main principles of island biogeography, which we cover in this module, tie into important themes in ecology, evolution, and conservation. In this module, the students are actively engaged in an exercise of island colonization, with the students themselves representing species colonizing islands made by circular ropes. These concepts are used to explain numbers of species on any isolated habitat surrounded by unlike habitat, including mountaintops surrounded by lowlands, ponds surrounded by terrestrial communities, organisms themselves as islands colonized by parasites, and fragmented forest surrounded by farmland. At the end of the module, we tie previously covered concepts into broader environmental issues, such as species diversity in a fragmented landscape and how to conserve species across a network of protected reserves.

Island Biogeography (Teacher Handout)

Our Adaptive Hands

First, demo instructors will discuss with students what an adaptation is, and how it differs from acclimation. With a partner, students will then learn why the human thumb is adaptive by timing how long it takes them to do a series of activities 1) while their thumbs are free and 2) while their thumbs are taped to their hands. Students will then switch roles and repeat the activities so that both students are able to try the activities. At the end of the activity, students are asked to chart the time that it took them to do the activities with and without thumbs. Discussion with demo instructors at the end may include a class comparison of timed activities, as well as a period of hypothesis-testing where students are encouraged to go around the room and test whether they can do activities without thumbs as easily as with thumbs free.

Our Adaptive Hands

Rope of Life

Just how old is the Earth? Students learn to think in terms of evolutionary time scales by retracing key events in the history of our planet along the Rope of Life. A rope with lines on it marking millions of years is laid out around the room, and students place note cards along the rope to guess when they think particular events occurred, such as the appearance of land plants, and the appearance of mammals. Then students will be given a new set of cards with the actual dates of the events, and will place them in the correct order. As a group, we will discuss with the students which events they had originally guessed correctly and what they were surprised about.

Rope of Life

Ecological Interactions

The main concepts of this module are to describe the difference between mutualism, parasitism, and competition; to explain why no two species can occupy the same niche in a community; and to predict what could happen if an invasive species is introduced into an ecosystem. Students will be introduced to basic vocabulary about ecological relationships (symbiosis, mutualism, competition, parasitism, commensalism, generalists, and specialists). Then students will be split up into groups of three to do an activity that simulates these different relationships. Each student will represent a different species competing for limited food. Between rounds, students will count how much food they collected and answer questions about the various ecological interactions. After the game, students will work individuals to analyze two graphs and a cartoon.

Ecological Interactions (Teacher Handout)

Natural Selection

Students will be introduced to the concepts of genetic variation and natural selection by filling out a worksheet during a class discussion. Then they will break into small groups to simulate natural selection acting on a population of black and white peppered moths in two different environments. Students will have 10 seconds to pick up as many black and white circles as they can from a piece of black construction paper. Then they will count how many of each color they caught. They will repeat activity against a white background and see which color moth will increase in frequency.

Natural Selection (Teacher Handout)

Water Quality

Students have the chance to work in groups to test the water quality of several water samples collected from their very own St. Louis! We examine the pH, dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand, turbidity, nitrate, phosphate, and coliform bacteria of water collected from industrial sites, farmland, drinking faucets, St. Louis rivers, and more. After groups blindly test these various samples, the class then collectively works to identify which samples were collected from which locations. Emphasis will be placed on hypothesis formation. This activity therefore uses some detective-like mystery to illustrate characteristics of water. The activity’s final discussion touches on topics key to biology and conservation; for example, we discuss current issues regarding industrial and farm pollution, drinking water standards, and river organism health.

Missouri Botanical Gardens Tour

Embracing experiential learning, we tour the Missouri Botanical Climatron, the dome-shaped building housing nearly 3,000 exotic plant species. This is a unique opportunity to explore a tropical ecosystem within our very own St. Louis. Students attend each of four “learning stations” strategically placed around the Climatron. These include: (1) Evolution of Plants, (2) Adaptations, (3) Leaves and Flowers, and (4) Growth and Forms. Multiple instructors allow small groups of students to explore topics hands-on. Rather than lecturing, we use the life forms around us to cover topics such as the transition from ancient to modern plants, plant classification, how plants use resourses and the wide variety of familiar edibles. We also cover pollination, reproduction, and the basics of photosynthesis and cellular respiration. We recommend spending a three-hour period at Missouri Botanical Garden in order for us to best accommodate your students. We also strongly recommend planning this trip on a Wednesday or Saturday morning, since Garden admission is free those days. We suggest a 9-12 visit on either Wednesday or Saturday; packed or purchased lunches can be eaten after in Sassafras Cafe.

Climatron Tour (Teacher Handout)

Genetics & Genomics

The Genetics & Genomics Teaching Team is excited to explore the concepts of DNA and gene inheritance with K-12 students in St. Louis. Our team focuses on understanding the genetic code and how it can be translated into the proteins that power all life on Earth. We also help students to learn the basics of Mendelian inheritance and how genes are passed on from parents to offspring. Our lessons also connect students to the field of Genomics, including how whole genome sequences are produced and how scientists use this information to improve human and environmental health.

Our goals for the Genetics & Genomics team are as follows:

  • Teach students about DNA as a genetic code that can be transcribed to RNA which is translated into a protein product
  • Define the concepts of genes and traits and how an individual’s genotype can determine their phenotype
  • Help students learn the basic concept of Mendelian genetic inheritance
Strawberry DNA Extraction

In this activity, students will perform a simple experiment using household materials to extract the DNA from a strawberry. Washington University volunteers will lead a discussion about the structure and function of DNA and the four nucleotide base pairs that make up the genetic code in all organisms on Earth. At the end of the experiment, students will be able to see with their naked eye a big glob of strawberry DNA! This activity is adaptable for K-12 students.

Strawberries_and_DNA

PTC Taste Strips and Mendelian Genetics

For this activity, we explore the basic concepts of Mendelian genetic inheritance, including discussions on how genes are passed on from parents to offspring and how those genes encode for specific traits. PTC (phenyltiourea) is a unique chemical that can only be tasted if the person has a specific taste gene. Students can lay the PTC paper on their tongue and determine if they are a taster or a non-taster, depending if they have the taster gene or not! We also review several other Mendelian traits, such as lobed versus attached earlobes, presence or absence of a widow’s peak, the ability to roll your tongue, and many more. By the end of the lesson, we anticipate that students understand Mendelian inheritance and can define the words gene, trait, phenotype, and genotype.

Taste_Strips

How Long Is Your Genome?

This unit uses basic math skills to show students just how big their genome is. We calculate how a long a sentence would have to be to hold one students entire genome. We then compare the size of other organism’s genomes, showing that humans do not have the biggest genome on the planet.

HowLongGenome

DNA Sequencing Game

This unit is centered around a computer game that Jay Gertz (a former member of our Teaching Team) programmed. The computer game lets the students sequence a strand of DNA by going through all of the steps necessary to determine a DNA sequence. The students usually race to see who can sequence their strand of DNA first.

Introduction_to_Sanger_Sequencing

Gourdomics

This unit demonstrates how an organisms DNA (or genotype) can relate to an organisms characteristics (or phenotype). Students study a set of gourds together with their genotype and determine what phenotype is being affected. In the end, students are given the genotype of a mystery gourd and must pick it out from a set of possible mystery gourds.

Gourdomics

DNA and Evolution

In this unit we show students how we can use DNA to determine how different organisms are related. Through different examples students are introduced to the idea of phylogenetic trees and shown that DNA can help to clarify difficult to determine evolutionary relationships.

Neuroscience

The Neuroscience Teaching Team demonstrates how the brain and nervous system works and is organized. Demonstrations allow the students to experience how your body senses where it is in space (called proprioception) and how you adapt to altered visual stimuli (a process called visual-motor adaptation). Moreover, we provide a live viewing of a human brain with an explanation on how the nervous system works. Beyond these standard demonstrations, we can provide lessons on how you discriminate two-points differently over your body, how the neuron functions using an electrical model and how transmission works at the level of a synapse between two neurons. All in all, these demonstrations provide an exciting, interactive experience for the students to learn about neuroscience and foster increased enthusiasm about this growing field.

The Neuroscience Teaching Team program is comprised of 3 main modules. They can be done in a single class that is split into rotating groups, with 15-20 minutes per station. Alternatively, two of the modules can be presented together to an entire class in a longer format. The three components are designed to give a basic understanding of how the brain is organized and how it helps us interact with our environment in a number of ways.

Neuroscience Demo Description

Neuroscience Demo Supply List

Brain Anatomy

This module will students with an overview of brain anatomy. If possible, students will be shown and can touch a real brain and/or spinal cord from human cadavers.

Brain Anatomy

Visual Motor Adaptation

This demonstration will show students how the brain can adapt to changes in visual input.

Visual Motor Adaptation

Proprioception: The Sixth Sense

This demonstration will introduce students to the sixth sense, proprioception, and learn how it helps us interact with our environment.

Proprioception: The Sixth Sense

The Synapse

Electrical Model of Neuron

Electrical Model of a Neuron

The Synapse

Tactile Sensation

Tactile Sensation

Tactile Sensation Worksheet

Physics

The Physics Teaching Team aims to illustrate the role which physics plays in everyone’s everyday life. Our hope is to show students that they can use physics to understand the world around. In particular we try to tailor our demonstrations and activities toward their areas of interest (music, sports, etc.) in order to show them the ubiquity of physical laws. We feel that showing the role that physics plays in activities which students enjoy we can inspire them to look more favorably at physics and science in general.

Waves with Musical Bottles

Much of the phenomena we observe in nature are waves, such as the electromagnetic waves of light, pressure waves of sound, etc. In each case, waves can be characterized according to the media through which they propagate. For sound, the vibration of molecules carries waves through various media. In this demo, students learn how wave frequency affects the pitch of a sound. Tuning bottles of water, they will play different notes to discover the physics behind why instruments can make different sounds, as well as learn about different properties of waves.

Musical Bottles

Static Electricity

Electricity plays such an important role in modern life. From large household appliances to the small gadgets we use so frequently, electricity is a universal tool we use throughout every day. Most people imagine electrical currents and circuits with batteries and wires when they think of electricity. However, all of these examples seem to suggest that electricity is something that is dynamic and always flowing. But, in fact, electricity is present even when things are at a stand-still. Static electricity is the interaction between charged particles that make up materials. Just like gravity is mediated by the gravitational force between two objects with mass, electricity is mediated by the electrical force between two charged objects. Using a variety of materials in this activity, students will observe static electricity in action and learn the differences between the gravitational and electrical forces. By charging objects with either like charge or opposite charge, they will discover that the electrical force can be both attractive and repulsive, which allows for the currents and circuits so important for everyday life.

Mirror Obstacle Course

Students explore the concept of light and reflection using an object they see everyday: a mirror. Here, students will learn what is happening when light interacts with a mirror and how this concept makes mirrors a valuable tool for optical devices as well as everyday life.

Mirror Obstacle Course

DIY Kaleidoscopes

When light hits an object’s surface, part of the light is absorbed by the atoms that make up the object and part of it is scattered back out. The objects we are able to see are visible to us because of the partially scattered light eventually reaching our eyes. Light can also be transmitted, reflected and refracted. In this demo, students will learn about the scattering and reflection of light by using a classic optical instrument: a kaleidoscope. The beautiful repeating patterns that kaleidoscopes create are due to the multiple reflections of different colors of light scattered from objects. Students will see these principles in action by building their own kaleidoscope using simple, household items.

Magnetic Field Lines

Magnets are used in many everyday objects, such as TV’s, videotapes, and speakers. Not only that, we are also living on one giant magnet – the Earth. All magnets produce magnetic fields, and magnetic field lines are a way to visualize these magnetic fields. This demo will use this phenomenon to demonstrate basic concepts of magnetism.

Magnetic Field Lines


Frequently Asked Questions

Coming soon!


Any questions? Contact us!

We are happy to answer any questions or suggest appropriate demos for your event. YSP is entirely run by volunteers, so please allow at least two weeks for a reply.

Email the YSP Teaching Teams Directors at ysp.teachingteams@wustl.edu

Nicole Osborn

Director of Teaching Teams

Position Available!

Assistant Director of Teaching Teams