Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science


Volunteer Attendance Form

Volunteers, please have a group member fill out this attendance form after every lesson your group teaches!



Fall 2021 Program Updates

  • We are planning on teaching Nashville Metro students in the classroom again this semester! Our volunteer application will be open on 8/25/2021 and will be due 9/15/2021.
  • Rural programs are running normally.
  • Our program with Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital is currently on hold. More information here.
  • Our Outreach Committee is currently looking for virtual outreach opportunities for volunteers to participate in this semester.


Fall 2021 Volunteer Info Sessions:

All info sessions are VIRTUAL!


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 elementary and middle school students.

Our goals are 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, to stimulate an interest in teaching as a profession, and to help kids develop a passion for science.

About Us

This section describes what we do during a regular semester. Our Fall 2020 plans are here.

VSVS partners a team of 3-4 volunteers with a 5th – 8th grade classroom teacher from the Metro Nashville Public School System

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

Teachers stay in the classroom during lessons

Lessons are:

  • Designed to fit each grade’s curriculum
  • FUN and easy for the volunteers to teach
  • Enjoyable and informative!

Lesson materials are portable (they fit into one box) and SAFE

A manual with lesson plans is provided to every volunteer

Over 100 lessons have been written by VSVS over the years. The lessons taught in classrooms 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 events in science clubs
  • Teach 10 minute lessons to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital patients in their rooms
  • Teach 10-15 minute 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, including Alternative Spring and Winter Break teams, SWE, MANNA, Dance Marathon, VanderbuddiesPlayday, and Best Buddies
  • Provide science kits to teachers who do not have VSVS teams
  • Recruit VINSE and GAANN graduate students as a way for them to 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 offers a STEM outreach program to rural counties for grades 6-8 sponsored by the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (VINSE). VSVS has developed middle-school lessons in accordance with the Tennessee Academic Standards for Science which have been used in Davidson County since 1994. Each hands-on science lesson includes background materials, a prepared presentation for teachers/students, all materials for the hands-on activity, and student worksheets that can be copied and modified. Participating teachers in each grade will be able to select up to 3 lessons for the fall and up to 3 lessons for the spring to teach in their classrooms. Teachers are required to attend a one-day training session at Vanderbilt in the fall to train on each of the lessons selected for their classroom. Since 2012, we have worked with 108 teachers in 7 counties (Bedford, Giles, Dickson, Lawrence, Macon, Robertson, and Rutherford) and have distributed supplies that have reached over 21,000 rural middle school students.

Teachers: if you are interested in participating, you can find the sign up form here

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, among others. The program features three teaching models: bedside lessons, Seacrest Studios, and “VSVS at the Clinic.” In bedside lessons, volunteers are one-on-one with children for an interactive and personalized experience. For the Seacrest Studios model, 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

VSVS currently reaches about 3,600 children per semester

“Most notable” user:

Science TV personality 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