New partnership aligns Riverdale High School Honors with MTSU science college

Oct 21, 2022 at 03:57 pm by WGNS News

MTSU chemistry professor Sarah Bergemann discusses the evolution the coronavirus strains to a group of Riverdale High School Honors College students.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Basic and Applied Sciences welcomed dozens of outstanding students from the Riverdale High School Honors College.

A first-time partnership between MTSU and the Riverdale program will, potentially, be a springboard for future visits from Riverdale and “a model” for collaborations with other area high schools, said Greg Van Patten, dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.


With assistance from their students in some cases, MTSU science faculty gave the Riverdale students a different perspective from their regular high school classes.

Kimberly Cerchiaro, Riverdale Honors College coordinator involved in advanced placement at the school, said many of the 50 students who participated shared “rave reviews” from their visit.

“It was very enlightening. And, all of our teachers learned a lot, too,” Cerchiaro said. “This opens a lot of avenues for how math and science can impact learning when you get to a university.”

Riverdale’s Honors College has a mission “to offer opportunities to specialize in academics with a focus on college and career success.” Admitted students must complete 20 service hours each year and take a minimum of three honors, advanced honors, advanced placement, dual-enrollment or dual credit courses per year.

Biology, chemistry, geosciences, mathematics, engineering technology, physics and astronomy were areas of study the students could choose from while visiting MTSU.

MTeach’s STEM teacher education program, quantum computing, physics of flight, lunar rovers (moon buggies) and others were sessions available to them.

“Everything went smoothly,” said Van Patten. “It was a chance for Riverdale students to see things and have an almost science fiction kind of things that’s different from our everyday life.

“We wanted them to get out of their usual routine, have fun and learn things in a new way — things they wouldn’t have an opportunity to learn in their high school classroom.”

Ground-penetrating radar, or GPR, was the “science fiction” aspect Van Patten referred to that nine Riverdale students learned about from Zada Law, director of the Geospatial Research Center/Fullerton Laboratory for Spatial Technology.

“I talked about the ground-penetrating radar and how it is used in archaeology and other professions,” said Law, who was assisted by Clelie Peacock, who performed undergraduate work at MTSU and is a University of Southern Mississippi graduate student.

“As an archaeologist, Clelie knows a lot about GPR and was invaluable today in educating the high school students about how to interpret the readings from the machine,” Law added.

Law said Peacock moved back to Murfreesboro to write a thesis and work on a grant to the MTSU Anthropology Department from the Tennessee Wars Commission.

An MTSU alumna with bachelor’s (English and education) and master’s degrees (English), Cerchiaro said “we do plan making this an annual event.” They were quite impressed with the School of Concrete and Construction Management and the department’s new building, and plan to make a separate visit there, she added.

Five Riverdale interdisciplinary faculty members — English, science, math, English as a second language and gifted education — attended with the students.

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