By Ken Lay

Students from Vine Magnet Middle School got the opportunity to see science in action Thursday morning with the help from scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

ORNL is a working partner with Vine; one of Knox County’s Community Schools and has been active in the school’s science classes since the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year.

The lab sponsors and conducts a female STEM academy on Thursdays where some female engineers introduce female students to the field of engineering.

But Thursday, scientists from ORNL were on hand to help the school host a Science Day for Vine’s sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Students were given opportunities to work with polymer slime and motorized buggies and conduct physics demonstrations with the help of the school’s teachers and ORNL employees.

Vine seventh grade science teacher John Swicegood said he was pleased when he discovered that the laboratory wanted to partner with the school.

“When they came to us, when they came to me, I was thrilled and I thought it was amazing,” Swicegood said. “These students have the opportunity to see people who are in engineering every day and it’s great that the engineers come here and work with our students after they get off work.

“Our students can actually see what engineers do and this is fun for them and it’s fun for me. I can teach them about science and engineering but I can’t show our kids what engineers do. This is big for our kids, especially when it will come time for them to make college and career decisions.”

Swicegood also noted that the partnership with ORNL goes a little beyond science.

“If there’s one thing I can tell you about this, it’s that this is positive,” he said. “So often, people only see the negative.

“But I want these people to know about the positive things that our teachers, our kids and our schools are doing.”

Community Schools Site Resource Coordinator Kendra Berry agreed.

“Vine is a community school and it’s one of 12 community schools in Knox County,” said Berry, who is based at Vine Middle as part of Knox County’s Great Schools program. “When people think of community schools, they think about the after school activities.

“They think about the programs that we have and the things that we do after school. But at the community schools, we do so much more and our students benefit from the things that we do with our partners during the school day.”

One of those opportunities is the chance for the students to work with and be mentored by professional scientists.

And like Swicegood, Berry said that she feels the need to get the word out about the positive things at Vine.

“Our principal, [Cindy] White says that we have the responsibility to get the word out,” Berry said. “ORNL has been so good to our kids and to us.

“We have great teachers and a tremendous staff. We have a lot of great things going on here.”