WORKING IN STEM

Robert Springer, left, and Raymond Savickas, chemistry teachers at Coventry High School, are trained on “A Natural Approach to Chemistry” Monday at the East Bay Educational Collaborative in Warren. 

 

COVENTRY — An interactive chemistry program given to Coventry High School by the East Bay Educational Collaborative is geared toward encouraging students to consider one day pursuing careers in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM).

Robert Springer and Raymond Savickas, both chemistry teachers at the high school, were chosen recently to receive $20,000 worth of chemistry equipment, supplies and training through the East Bay Educational Collaborative’s “A Natural Approach to Chemistry” program. 

“It’s very understandable and accessible for all learners,” Kathy Eller, director of client services at the collaborative, said of the program, which was given to 10 high schools out of some 40 that applied.  

Funded through a grant from the United States Office of Naval Research, the program is a component of “Physics 360,” a three-year initiative spearheaded by Ronald Kahn, the East Bay Educational Collaborative’s Office of Naval Research project director. 

Launched in 2018, the intent of “Physics 360,” Eller said, is to address gaps in the STEM talent pool by engaging students in hands-on learning through realistic laboratory experiments.

“We hope to fully engage the high school students in chemistry, and excite them about chemistry, and encourage them to continue into college,” Eller said of the chemistry component. 

Ultimately, she added, the hope is that students who’ve been exposed to the “A Natural Approach to Chemistry” curriculum eventually enter into STEM-related careers. 

“The idea, then, is that we’re producing students who will go into STEM careers that are needed by the Navy and needed by our STEM workforce,” Eller continued. “Right now, we’re often going outside of the country to find people who are trained in the skills needed for our STEM workforce.” 

Through the program, Coventry will receive software, textbooks, e-books and a year’s worth of chemicals and other laboratory materials. The school will also be given six portable lab stations, each featuring various probeware — for example, temperature probes and voltage probes — as well as a heating device that can be used in lieu of an old Bunsen burner.

One of the frequent problems with STEM education, Eller added, is that, though high school students may be doing lab work and then writing about their results, often it isn’t using current technology and methods. 

“They’re lacking actually knowing how to analyze the data using current technology,” she said. 

The grant also covers two days of professional development at the East Bay Educational Collaborative for Springer and Savickas, with training wrapping up this afternoon. The teachers are being taught the ins-and-outs of the new the lab stations by trainers from Lab Aids, which supplied the equipment. 

“This really is a program for the students,” Eller said, “to get them engaged and excited about the STEM programs.”

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