Even after retiring from a 45-year teaching career at Biloxi schools, Della McCaughan still makes science a fun subject for students to learn.
McCaughan was a guest speaker Monday for Project WetKids, an out-of-school program for middle school students in the Pascagoula School District. During her presentation, McCaughan covered a variety of scientific topics from electromagnetism to fossils and marine biology.
“The more you know, the more you’re capable of sharing your knowledge and you are more at ease with presenting it,” said McCaughan. “Teach the students and notice their responses. Know that when they ask you questions, you’ll be able to answer them or ask them questions that lead to the answers.”
Once named Mississippi Teacher of the Year, McCaughan has taught many students over the years, including 2007 Nobel Peace Prize co-recipient Dr. Virginia Burkett. Burkett, a Biloxi native who serves as chief scientist for Global Change Research at the U.S. Geological Survey, credits McCaughan for her love of science and nature.
Over her many years of teaching, McCaughan has collected scientific artifacts from all around the world. During her presentation, she explained the source of each artifact, giving the students a hands-on approach to learning. McCaughan encouraged the students to investigate each artifact and ask questions.
Frances Hawkins, a sixth-grade student at Trent Lott Middle School and a Project WetKids participant, said she thought McCaughan’s presentation was fun. “My favorite was the dinosaur fossils, but I liked when she showed us how things floated and how the electricity could work without the wires,” Hawkins said.
Project WetKids was created through a partnership with The University of Southern Mississippi, ChevronTexaco, Audubon Mississippi, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Mississippi Naturalists and Stennis Space Center. The program is funded through an $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Academies for Young Scientists program. Dr. Julie Cwikla, an associate professor of mathematics education at Southern Miss Gulf Coast, is leading the partnership.
The National Science Foundation awarded 16 grants nationwide through its Academies for Young Scientists program. Southern Miss was the recipient of the only grant awarded in the Southeast.
Retired teacher Della McCaughan, left, shows middle school students from the Pascagoula School District her collection of marine biology artifacts from around the world. McCaughan, who retired after teaching for 45 years in Biloxi Schools, inspired the students to make science fun. The students belong to the program Project WetKids, which was created through a partnership with The University of Southern Mississippi, ChevronTexaco, Audubon Mississippi, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Mississippi Naturalists and Stennis Space Center. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation. (Southern Miss Public Relations photo by Charmaine Williams)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu/gulfcoast .