Volunteer Frequently Asked Questions

What is VSVS?

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

How do I get involved?

o 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 at studentorg.vanderbilt.edu/vsvs/sign-up. 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?

o No, all volunteers are put into groups of 3-4 and assigned to a particular
classroom. If you have friends that you’d like to be partnered with, be sure to fill
out a separate “Partner Application” so you can be appropriately matched.

Where will I be teaching?

o 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?

o Each team is assigned one lesson per week for four consecutive weeks during a
semester. At the end of these four weeks there are two make-up weeks that can
be used for rescheduling in the case of emergency or illness during any of your
regularly scheduled sessions. Each lesson is approximately 2 hours (1 hour for
transportation and 1 hour for teaching).

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

o Yes! VSVS provides transportation for all volunteers. If no one on your team has
a car on campus, you will be given a code to put in your Lyft account that will
charge VSVS for rides instead of you!
o 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.

What is the time commitment like for this organization?

o VSVS is a relatively low time commitment org. You are required to attend
between 1 and 3 training sessions (depending on your position) at the beginning
of each semester and each of the four lessons you will be teaching your class.
Training is generally 4 hours or less across all sessions and each lesson is 2 hours
(1 hour for travel and 1 hour for teaching). Altogether, you’re looking at between
9 and 12 hours spread across 9 weeks. Of course, there are many other ways you
can get involved with VSVS beyond these baseline hours!

How can I be more involved?

o 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!
o Volunteer at our local outreach events. Every semester, VSVS has a variety of
outreach events in the community. Things like 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 (but we’re hoping
to also add them to the website in the future!). VSVS Outreach Committee Co-
Chairs coordinate all materials, training, and transportation for these events. All
we need is you! Check the calendar at studentorg.vanderbilt.edu/vsvs/calendar
to see what’s coming up!
o Become a member of the VSVS Student Board. Each year VSVS brings on a new
class of VSVS Board Interns. During the internship period (1 semester), 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 open each November, so keep an eye on our
o Volunteer with VSVS at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. VSVS has a special
program at VCH that takes miniature versions of many lessons we typically do
bedside 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 of 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. Keep an eye on our website if you’re interested!
o 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, visit our
website at studentorg.vanderbilt.edu/vsvs/immersion. (Not available yet, but
coming soon!)

How do I check out a lesson kit to take to my classroom?

o 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
9:30a. 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?

o 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?

o 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.
o During week 1 & 4 follow these steps; return kit to metal shelves in room 5233,
check off team’s attendance on the google sheet, fill out the purple feedback
form, and drop the neon survey in the box on the counter.
o During week 2 & 3 follow these steps; return kit to metal shelves in room 5233,
check off team’s attendance on the google sheet, and fill out the purple
feedback form.
o The purple feedback form and all attendance sheets are linked on the computer
desktops. Passwords for all of our computers are “vsvs.”

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

o 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?

o 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?

o 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?

o Addresses for all of our participating schools can be found in your lesson manual
(distributed during Team Training) or on our website at
studentorg.vanderbilt.edu/vsvs/schools. 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?

o 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?

o 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.
o 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

Can graduate students participate in VSVS?

o 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?

o 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 during the hours
of 9a and 4p, 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?

o 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?

o 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?

o 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.
o 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?

o 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?

o 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?

o 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?

o 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?

o The selection of lessons in each grade 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?

o 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?

o 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.
o 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
o 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?

o 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?

o 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).