Volunteer Frequently Asked Questions

What is VSVS?

VSVS stands for Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science. Members of this organization volunteer to teach hands-on science lessons to 5th – 8th grade classrooms in the Metro Nashville School District.

How do I get involved?

If you’d like to be a part of VSVS, simply fill out the sign-up form at the beginning of the semester! Sign-ups generally go live the first day of classes each semester and can be found here. Be sure that you can commit the time to VSVS before filling out the application though! Once you’ve signed up, we’re counting on you as a member!

Will I be teaching lessons alone?

No, all volunteers are put into groups of 3-4 and assigned to a particular classroom. Usually, If you have friends that you’d like to be partnered with we have  a separate “Partner Application”.

Where will I be teaching?

VSVS is partnered with many schools in the Nashville area. For your lessons, you will be matched with a cooperating teacher and one of their classes. All accepted schools are within five miles of Vanderbilt’s campus. Be sure to leave 20-30 minutes before and after your lesson for transportation though. Even though the schools are close, Nashville traffic can be tricky!

How often are lessons?

Each team teaches 1 lesson per week for 4 consecutive weeks in the semester. After these 4 weeks, there are 2 make-up weeks that can be used for rescheduling in case of an emergency or illness during any of your regularly scheduled sessions.

What if I don’t have a car? Can I still participate?

Yes! VSVS provides transportation for all volunteers. If no one on your team has a car, you will be given a Lyft code that will charge VSVS for rides instead of you! Lyft codes are given to team leaders during Team Training sessions. The team leader is the only person that can use the code and call rides for their team. If for any reason the code fails or the leader cannot call the ride, contact the VSVS Educational Coordinator (the one you get all of the emails from!) ASAP and they will schedule you a ride so no one in your team has to go through the reimbursement process.
*Note: University policy dictates that the Lyft program can only be used by 
those who are 18+ years old. 

What is the time commitment like for this organization?

VSVS is a relatively low time commitment. You are required to attend between 1 and 3 training sessions (depending on your position) at the beginning of each semester for a total of 4 hours or less.  Additionally, you will teach 4 lessons in a semester. Each lesson is approximately  2 hours (1 hour for travel and 1 hour for teaching). Of course, there are many other ways you can get involved with VSVS beyond these baseline hours!

How can I be more involved?

Sign up to be a team leader

Team leaders manage all communication between VSVS, their cooperating teacher, and their team. They also train their team on the lessons they will be teaching during the semester (after receiving training from the student board) and manage transportation. There are generally over 100 spots for team leaders and they are a very important part of the organization! If you are interested, simply mark “yes” on your application!


Volunteer at our local outreach events

Every semester, VSVS has a variety of outreach events in the community, such as events at Adventure Science Center, Service Days in the VSVS Lab, or STEM Nights at local middle schools. Sign-ups for these events come out in our regular newsletters. The VSVS Outreach Committee Co-Chairs coordinate all materials, training, and transportation for these events. All we need is you! Check out the calendar here to see what’s coming up!


Join the Student Board

Each year VSVS brings on a new class of VSVS Board Interns. Typically, we begin to recruit interns towards the end of the fall semester. The internship takes place during the spring semester. During the internship period, you will learn all about the behind the scenes operations of VSVS and get the opportunity to help out in each facet. After the internship, you are able to apply for full board membership. All members that wish to join the VSVS Student Board must complete internship. Applications come out via our newsletter. So be sure to keep on eye out for it!
Volunteer with us at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital (VCH)
VSVS has a special program at VCH that takes smaller versions of many lessons we typically do in classroom to K-8 grade patients in the hospital. Here you will work one-on-one with patients in an environment entirely different than our standard classroom teams. Applications for this are separate from our standard classroom application, and generally come out each November. Because of the location, this process is more rigorous and involves an interview and lesson presentation before being accepted.

Start an Immersion Project with VSVS

Immersion is required anyway, why not complete it through your service with VSVS For more information on available projects and contact information for our Immersion Coordinator, click here.

How do I check out a lesson kit?

Kits will be picked up from the VSVS Lab (SC 5234) a minimum of 30 minutes before your scheduled lesson time. Come into the lab and an employee will check it out for you (do not attempt to check it out yourself, an employee must do this!). The only exceptions to this rule are groups with lesson times before 9:30 AM. They will find their kit on the wooden shelves outside the lab each week unless it needs items that are not shelf stable (liquid nitrogen, dry ice, ice, etc.). All kits are labeled with team information, please check that this is correct before leaving the lab.

When are kits due back?

Kits should be returned to the VSVS lab as soon as you arrive back to campus after completing a lesson. Since we have so few copies of each kit, it is important that they come back in a timely manner so that they can be refurbished for other teams to take out.

How do I check my kit back in when my group is finished with it?

Checking in a VSVS kit is a four-step process during weeks 1 & 4, and a three-step process during weeks 2 & 3. A step-by-step guide can be found below or on the sign in SC 5233.
During weeks 1 & 4:
  1. Return the kit to the metal shelves in room 5233
  2. Check off the team’s attendance and give feedback on the google form
  3. Drop off the neon survey in the box on the counter

During weeks 2 & 3:

  1.  Return the kit to the metal shelves in room 5233
  2. Check off team’s attendance and give feedback on the google form
The attendance form can be found here or on any of the desktops in the lab. Passwords for all of our computers are “vsvs.”

Do I get a free VSVS t-shirt for participating?

Yes and no. It depends on the semester you come in and t-shirt availability. If you apply during the fall semester you are guaranteed a t-shirt, as this is when new shirts for the year are ordered. If you don’t volunteer during the fall, but join us in the spring we may or may not have t-shirts left in your size. Contact the VSVS Educational Coordinator for more information.

Do I teach my lessons in the order they are in the manual?

Not necessarily. All teams will teach their mini-lesson during week 1, but from there everyone is on a rotating schedule. We do this because we only have the space to house between 4 and 8 copies of each kit here in the lab. If you would like to know your specific schedule, email the VSVS Educational Coordinator to find out or ask the person checking you in at Team Training.

How do I know when I’m supposed to be teaching?

At the beginning of each semester, we send out a group assignment email that contains all of the relevant information for your group. It will have your teachers name and contact information, as well as the names and contact for all of your group members, and the date/time of your lessons. Lessons occur once per week for four consecutive weeks. For more detailed information, check out the calendar on the website at studentorg.vanderbilt.edu/vsvs/calendar.

Where is my school?

Addresses for all of our participating schools can be found in your lesson manual. If you are using a map application or a ride share service to get to your school, be sure that you look up your school using it’s address not the name! There may be multiple schools or businesses in the area with similar names and you don’t want to end up at the wrong one!

What if I need to quit VSVS?

If you can no longer fulfill your commitment to VSVS, please reply to one of the emails we’ve sent you ASAP and let us know so that we can adjust accordingly.

What if I have a scheduling conflict or get sick during one of our lesson dates?

Send a message to your team leader ASAP so that they can make plans for your absence. Occasionally, if there are multiple conflicts on the same date they will need to reschedule the lesson with your teacher. If you are the team leader and your entire team is unable to make it to one of your lessons, let your teacher know as soon as you know and cc the VSVS Educational Coordinator so that your schedule can be appropriately adjusted. Your lesson will be moved to one of the make-up weeks at the end of the semester.

Can graduate students participate in VSVS?

Yes! We actually have two options for graduate students that would like to participate in VSVS. You may either join as a regular volunteer and go out with a team every week or you can serve as a floating volunteer if your schedule is very irregular but you know that you’ll be available for at least a few of our weeks. Just note which option you’d like in your application!

What if I have questions that aren’t covered here?

The best option for all questions and concerns is to first contact the VSVS Educational Coordinator. She can be reached by phone at 615-343-4379, email at paige.ellenberger@vanderbilt.edu, or in-person in SC 5234A between the hours of 9 AM and 4 PM, Monday-Friday. Depending on your question, she may direct you to a member of the student board for more information.



Teacher Frequently Asked Questions

How do I begin to participate with VSVS?

Teachers and volunteers must fill out a new application for each semester if they wish to participate. Applications always come out at the beginning of each semester. Getting applications in early is recommended, as spots fill up quickly.

How close do participating schools need to be in order to qualify?

All participating schools must be within a 5-mile radius of Vanderbilt. We are unable to accommodate classrooms beyond this distance for our standard teams because of the traffic patterns in Nashville. If you are beyond this distance, please feel free to look into some of our other events!

What else do I need to know in order to get started?

Every participating school must have a 3 rd Party Compliance form on file for the current school year. If this form is not completed and returned to Vanderbilt before the application due date, teams will not be matched with any classes in the school. Every teacher must sign and send in a copy of the Teacher FAQ agreement page at the end of this document. It can be attached to your application and must be submitted on or before the due date.

How does VSVS work?

VSVS teams are meant to come to the same classroom for four consecutive weeks at the same time each week. This is important to the relationship building and mentorship abilities between students and their VSVS team members. We do not accommodate requests to place teams in situations that disrupt this connection (every other week, split class periods, certain A/B scheduling, etc.). If you have questions about whether or not your schedule will be accepted before submitting your application, please reach out! We’re happy to work with you where we can.

How long are VSVS lessons?

Each lesson is between 45-60 minutes long. In order to have a VSVS team placed with your class, the block of time given in your schedule must be 60 minutes or longer. No exceptions are made for this.

Is there a chance I’ll put in an application and not be accepted even if I meet the requirements?

Yes. Occasionally, a class will not match up with any of our available volunteers and will not be able to be matched with a VSVS team for the semester. If this is the case, we will follow up with you and, of course, we would invite you to re-apply the following semester.

How are lessons chosen? Will they align with what I’m teaching?

VSVS teams are placed with classes in grade levels 5-8. Each grade level follows a specified selection of lessons for the current semester. Accommodations to the order of lessons or changes to the lesson schedule are not possible for our standard teams. Lessons are designed to either introduce or reinforce something students will learn in their grade level as specified in the Tennessee Academic Standards for Science. This may or may not align with the specific curriculum of your individual classroom. Due to the fact that we serve over 100 classrooms each semester, it is not possible to plan when would be best for each lesson to appear in every classroom in order to connect with individual teacher’s

How can I find out which lessons will be used in my grade level for the coming semester?

The selection of lessons in each grad for each semester can be requested by sending an email to the EC. Keep in mind that because we only have between 4-8 copies of each kit (storage space is tight!), lessons are on a rotating schedule. We cannot provide your classes specific schedules until after teams have been assigned (at that point you can contact the EC to request the order).

Where can I get a schedule for VSVS?

The semester calendar for VSVS can be found at studentorg.vanderbilt.edu/vsvs/calendar. This will tell you which weeks our volunteers are scheduled to be in classrooms as well as which weeks are available for make-up lessons in the case of rescheduling throughout the semester (due to illness, changing school schedules, etc.). If you know that one of your lesson dates will be affected in advance (think field trips, large scale school events, scheduled absences, etc.) please let us know as soon as possible so we can adjust your classes schedules accordingly.

What other offerings does VSVS have?

VSVS hosts a variety of events throughout the semester. If you’d like to catch us out in the community, take a peek at our calendar to see where we’ll be coming up! If you’d like to apply to have an event hosted at your school, please contact the EC. We’re happy to host science nights or other afterschool events with you! We can bring in a sampling of our over 100 lessons and some of our volunteers to man the event. We also offer after-school science club groups and robotics groups outside of our standard classroom offerings. For these, just note your interest on your application. The VSVS Rural Outreach Program works with teachers outside of Davidson county. If you are too far for us to send teams of volunteers to, we may still be able to loan you some of our lesson kits! More information can be found on the
sign-up page.

What if one (or more) of the volunteers assigned to my classroom quits?

Because VSVS is a volunteer organization, we occasionally have the unfortunate issue of members quitting mid-semester. Please keep in mind that if this happens, we will try our very best to accommodate you by offering the slot to late addition volunteers and/or leaving a kit in your classroom so that you may complete the lesson with the class period affected (if the entire team dissolves), but these accommodations may not pan out. If your team dissolves because of scheduling or other issues, we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused and invite you to re-apply in the following semester. We will not force members of existing groups to leave their classrooms and take over yours though. This would again disrupt the mentorship and relationship building facet of the lessons.

Where can I direct questions not covered in this document?

All questions and issues should be directed to the VSVS Educational Coordinator (EC), Paige Ellenberger, who may be reached by phone at 615-343-4379 or email at paige.ellenberger@vanderbilt.edu between the hours of 9a and 5p, Monday through Friday. Team scheduling issues that need to be addressed outside of these hours should be sent to the team leader assigned to the affected classroom (with EC cc’d so that they can make official schedule changes when they return to the office).