Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science

Sign up for VSVS!

Deadline for sign-ups is Saturday, September 7th, 2019

Check out our 2018-2019 Annual Report!

2018-2019 VSVS Annual Report

Who Are We?

VSVS At a Glance


VSVS is a service organization composed of undergraduate, graduate, and medical students who are committed to bringing inquiry-based, hands-on science lessons to middle-school students.

Our goals include to provide Vanderbilt students with an opportunity to explain science to school children, to help college students recognize their responsibilities for community service and the importance of volunteer service in schools, to provide role models for school children and to stimulate an interest in teaching as a profession.

What’s Our Mission?

Partners a team of 3-4 volunteers with a 5th – 8th grade classroom teacher in Metro Nashville schools (teachers stay in the classroom)

Each team visits the same classroom 4 times per semester and teaches a different hands-on science lesson each visit

Lessons are both enjoyable and informative:

  • Designed to fit the grade’s curriculum
  • Are FUN and easy for the volunteers to teach 
  • Lesson materials are portable (fit into 1 box) and SAFE
  • A manual with lesson plan is provided for every volunteer

Over 100 kits/lessons available. Lessons change each semester and are designed in accordance with the Science Curriculum Standards as set by the Tennessee Board of Education. Details of each lesson including manuals and videos can be found here

Robotics lessons are also offered at selected schools

What Else Do we Do?

In addition to our regular classroom visits, we also:

  • Provide volunteers and lessons for after-school science enrichment in science clubs
  • Teach 10-minute lessons to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital patients in their rooms, as well as in Teach 10-15 mini lessons at science “festivals” and Metro parent/student science nights
  • Participate in Vanderbilt Fall service days and MLK service day
  • Judge science fair projects
  • Teach science lessons to Vanderbilt Next Steps students
  • Write letters of support for grant applications from research faculty
  • Work with the Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth
  • Provide lessons and materials for other Vanderbilt student groups. (Alternative Spring and Winter Break teams, SWE, MANNA, Dance Marathon activities, VanderbuddiesPlayday, and Best Buddies)
  • Provide VSVS kits to teachers who do not have VSVS teams
  • VINSE and GAANN graduate students fulfill service requirements through participation in VSVS
  • Train teachers from surrounding rural counties and provide VSVS/VINSE kits for their use


VSVS / VINSE Rural Partnership

VSVS and VINSE (Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering) offer a STEM outreach program to rural counties for grades 6th-8th. The VSVS program has developed middle-school lessons that fit in Tennessee Curriculum Standards, these lessons have been used in Davidson County since 1994. Each hands-on science lesson includes background materials, a prepared presentation for teacher/students, all materials for the hands-on activity and student worksheets that can be copied and modified. Our mission is to take these materials to rural middle Tennessee Schools. Participating teachers in each grade will be able to select up to 4 lessons for the fall curriculum and up to 4 lessons for the spring. Kits are returned to Vanderbilt at the end of each semester to be refurbished. Teachers are required to attend a one-day training session at Vanderbilt in the fall and in the spring to train on each of the lessons selected for their classroom. Since starting in 2012 we have worked with 108 teachers in 7 counties (Bedford, Giles, Dickson, Lawrence, Macon, Robertson and Rutherford) and have distributed supplies for over 21,000 rural middle school students.

VSVS at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital (VSVS-VCH)

VSVS-VCH teaches hands-on science lessons to young patients at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Lesson topics include magnetism, ultraviolet light, chromatography, and polymers. The program features three teaching models: bedside lessons, an open classroom, and VSVS at the Clinic. In bedside lessons, volunteers are one-on-one with children for an interactive and personalized experience. For the open classroom, 2-5 patients visit the VCH School Room and learn science lessons in a comfortable, social environment. It is VSVS-VCH’s mission to distract children from the hospital environment while also inspiring them with science and enriching their primary education.

The Story of Us – from 1994 to today

VSVS was co-founded in 1994 by Dr. Melvin Joesten, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, and Michael Schooling, a medical student

Since then, VSVS has reached over 71,000 children in 1,350 Metro Nashville school classrooms

Currently reaches about 3,600 children per semester

“Most notable” user:

Steve Spangler used our Magic Sand kit at a teacher workshop in Colorado


nihVSVS won a 2011 National Institutes of Health K-12 LAB Challenge Award for the experiment “Protecting Skin from Ultraviolet Light,” written by Pat Tellinghuisen, Melvin Joesten, and Rachel Shevin