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'Grotto' helps GPC science students
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Two days before final exams and lab practicums, and the Georgia Perimeter College Science Grotto is humming with activity. Two skeletons, both named "Charlie," and the muscled torsos of mannequins stand guard in the corners, but today, no one is paying them much attention.

Instead, tutor Misty Lewis and GPC students Lacee Smith, Haley Holder and Daneil Hudson are busy disassembling and reassembling the components of the urinary tract system, using small plastic models spread across a table. The students -- Smith and Holder are majoring in dental hygiene and Hudson, pre-nursing -- are getting ready for a lab test and final for their anatomy and physiology course. They’ll spend a few hours in the room before going to their final that night.

At another table, a geology student goes through a box of rocks and minerals, silently memorizing their characteristics, while still another student quizzes herself on the periodic table for an upcoming chemistry exam.

Nicknamed the "Grotto" by Newton science instructor Dr. Jeff Mahr, and funded through an instructional technology grant, the science study room brings science students and faculty together all year, but more so during the week leading up major exams.

The grotto was created based on a
real need for students, said Dr. Susan Finazzo, former Newton science department chair.

"Science, unlike some of the other disciplines, is really about process, how things work," said Finazzo, who now is GPC’s interim dean of institutional effectiveness. "Science is also very jargon-heavy, and learning the language of science can be time-consuming, but it is a necessary step to achieving concept mastery."

It’s in the grotto where students have the opportunity to interact with and learn from their peers and from department faculty, while faculty members get to know their students better and help them one-on-one with difficult concepts, Finazzo said.

"Also, faculty can learn how to better approach their own teaching by observing where students are struggling the most."