Summer Program Offers Premier Educational Earth and Space Science Workshop for High School Teachers

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

STEMWith a need for minorities in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field, the SC State Physics Program continues to provide educational training to high school teachers across the state of S.C. In an ever changing global society, STEM field opportunities are on the move.

SC State University, in collaboration with Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, recently held an Earth and Space Science Workshop for high school teachers on the campus of SC State. SC State has partnered with two additional minority serving institutions: Medgar Evers College; Brooklyn, N.Y and the University of Houston-Downtown; Houston, Tex. to share educational experiences through workshops and development training in STEM related fields. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

“The objectives of the program are to disseminate new information to high school teachers pertaining to the earth-science related field, astronomy, astrobiology, atmospheric science and Project Lead the Way (PLTW),” said Dr. Donald Walter, professor of physics at SC State University. PLTW is a non-profit organization that prepares students to be the most creative and productive leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors, and to make meaningful, revolutionary contributions to the world. The organization also partners with middle schools and high schools to provide a rigorous, relevant STEM education and student career opportunities in the STEM related fields. “SC State is also building relationships with the K-12 community for the recruiting of at least two juniors or seniors from participating high school programs with an interest in these fields. Those chosen will visit SC State on a  Saturday in the fall,” said Walter.

The Earth and Space Science Workshop for high school teachers was a three-day workshop specifically designed to accustom the teacher and student participants to the field.  “I learned quite a bit here at the Earth and Space Science Workshop; it was really engaging and the opportunities that the University offers are awesome,” said Alexis Barnes, program participant and sophomore at Arabia Mountain High School in Lithonia, Ga.

The program currently consists of 11 participants.  The criterion required to be admitted in the program is that all applicants must be certified teachers of grades seven through 12 in S.C., and they must also teach in a related focus field. This summer, each participant received a $250 stipend and 20 recertification hours upon completing the workshop.

The participants were also ecstatic about the significant information and material that they learned while participating in the workshop.  “I really enjoyed the program; I am very interested in the astrophysics and astronomy. I am actually thinking about attending SC State University,” said Taffany Hyatt, a junior at Arabia Mountain High School.

Program participant Bonnie Bosworth shared the same sentiment. “This is the third year that I have been to an SC State workshop, and I always learn fun and interesting things,” said Bosworth.   “During the workshop, we were given UV sensitive beads that change color when exposed to the sun, and we were even given 500 beads to take back for our students for learning materials,” she continued. 

During the Earth and Space Science Workshop for high school teachers, the participants were able to partake in a number of other additional activities, such as a planetarium show at the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium, an overview of ozone UV radiation, balloon research and a balloon launch. The balloon launch project was designed to measure ozone content and other metrological quantities in the atmosphere. Typically, the balloon rises to an altitude of one-hundred thousand feet which equates to 20 miles, before bursting. It then parachutes back to Earth during the two hours of flight time. Relative humidity, temperature, pressure and ozone content are measured throughout the flight.

Program participant William Laursen of the Technology Center of Orangeburg, S.C. was intrigued with how much of this information was shared. “During the workshop, I learned many things about scholarships and job opportunities in astrophysics and astronomy. The bridge program and fellowships are definitely some of the information that I will inform my students about,” stated Laursen.  When asked about his most memorable experience, “building living organisms and UV radiation were really cool,” Laurseen says.

Earth and Space Science Workshop participants were:
Alexis Barnes, Arabia Mountain High School; Lithonia, Ga.
Bonnie Bosworth, Hartville High School; Hartsville, S.C.
Ewart Irick, Lake Marion High School; Santee, S.C.
Fred Okoh, Arabia Mountain High School; Lithonia, Ga.
Jane Perry, Summit Parkway Middle School; Columbia, S.C.
Janice Cunningham, Cross High School; Cross, S.C.
Norma Rockwell, Carver-Edisto Middle School; Cope, S.C.
Onize Isa, District Five Technology Center; Orangeburg, S.C.
Taffany Hyatt, Arabia Mountain High School; Lithonia, Ga.
Tamika Battle, W.J. Keenan High School; Columbia, S.C.
William Laursen, District Five Technology Center; Orangeburg, S.C.

For additional information about future Earth and Space Science Workshops for high school teachers and how you can apply, contact  Dr. Donald Walter at (803) 533-3773.