“It’s because, for the most part, early-education teachers don’t enjoy teaching the sciences. It’s statistically proven,” he said.
So 23 years ago, Giachino committed himself to providing a positive chemistry experience for youngsters by conducting labs for area fifth graders.
“I wanted to show these kids that chemistry is fun,” he said. “I begin with a demonstration, and then the kids get to put on the goggles and use the equipment and be real chemists. They keep wanting to come back, so I keep teaching it. It’s rewarding.”
While the photo opportunities of children with goggles and beakers alone are enough to justify the program’s existence, the 11-year-olds are receiving far more than simply a fun day in a college classroom. Giachino believes his lab day is the children’s first exposure to critical comparative thinking, a concept that will benefit them in all disciplines.
“For the first time in their scientific careers they’re forced to make hypotheses and check their work through experimenting,” he said. “I think, a lot of times, it’s the kids’ first time seeing the fundamentals of the scientific process.”
The program has been so wildly popular with both the children and their teachers that Giachino frequently runs four labs per week during Baker’s January Interterm, evidence of its growth since he started with one class of eight from Marion Springs Elementary School in 1988.
One of the highlights of the program for Giachino is when a freshman enrolls in one of his classes seven years after first being exposed to chemistry as an elementary school student.
“At the end of the program, (the kids) write those obligatory thank you letters to me,” he said. “I save every one of them. Then, when they come on campus again as adults, I hand them back to them. Most of them can’t believe I remembered.”
Giachino is set to retire in May.