August 8, 2016
NEW ELLENTON — A local middle school teacher signed on as a summer intern after last school year to help create a focused, localized science program to open a pathway between classroom lessons and students’ future careers.
Tammy Lord said the “Science in Our Corner of the World” program aims to integrate research, technology and applications from entities in the Aiken area and create kits to help teachers get more hands on lessons into the classrooms.
“I’m a teacher. That’s who I am. My job is to prepare students to become contributing members of society. Unfortunately, the middle school mind set can’t always see past tomorrow,” she said. “I’m trying to get them to look into their future and see that what’s going on in the science classroom really is being used by employers in our community – places they could end up working.”
Lord signed on to the internship with the Applied Research Center, a multi-project research and development organization in New Ellenton, located in close proximity to the Savannah River Site. At the end of last year, she said the ARC sent local schools a letter seeking a summer intern. Their goal was to get better resources and technology into middle school classrooms in order to boost interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, topics.
According to Dr. George Wicks, a consulting scientist at the research facility, getting students excited and interested early is key to filling the future careers in STEM areas.
Lord said the program is developing kits to supplement current lessons with technology students may recognize from their parents’ careers around the area.
“The lessons in the kits won’t really be much different from what we’ve been trying to do in science (classrooms) for some time now,” she said.
Lord added, “Once you have all the bugs worked out in the kit, you can pack it up, put it away, and it’s ready to go next year with very little work. The kids love the hands-on activities. They are engaged and remember what we were learning for a long time.”
She said it can be difficult for teachers to build their own kits because of high student populations and the out-of-pocket expenses associated with materials.
The kits are important, she said, because they can associate lessons with real life and display technology used by, products made by and services provided by area companies.
“The major difference in this program is that it’s tying local industry into the science lessons. Showing the students that science does matter,” Lord said.
At the end of the last school year, the Applied Research Center sent a letter to local schools seeking teachers for the Science in Our Corner of the World internship. Lord said she signed on immediately, without even knowing the assignment details, after her experience at a facility tour some months before. She said she was looking for something invigorating after a year of challenges, obstacles and even pain.
“Last year was a difficult year for me personally,” she said. “When I was offered the internship, I saw it as a way of getting excited about science again.”
Lord said the previous year included challenges dealing with personal struggles, family health concerns, professional challenges and even a number of deaths. But she said the chance to focus and work at the center has brought new life to her love for science and the classroom and she said the students remain in focus while she works.
She said, “I hope the kids want to be involved in science classes. I want them to be able to make a connection between what we’re doing in the classroom and their future.”
She said the current school administration encourages teachers to create lesson plans that are interesting, engaging and memorable. Lord said she also hopes to come back to the center after this school year and wants to continue working with the research facility to continue advancements with the program.
Thomas Gardiner covers science, technology and energy topics for the Aiken Standard. Gardiner is originally from Texas and studied at the University of South Carolina Aiken.