By Mark Plemmons
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Educators from across North Carolina got hands on in the labs at the N.C. Research Campus and at several other area businesses Monday during the Fourth Annual STEM Industry Day sponsored by N.C. New Schools.
“The notion is to bring educators to places that are conducting research, preferably like it is here (at the N.C. Research Campus), cutting-edge research to give them a sense of what they are preparing students for and also what are a range of career options,” said Robin Marcus, one of the leaders for N.C. New Schools.
They are learning what education is required for certain careers and why some of the things are being taught in high school, such as slope in algebra, Marcus said during an interview while a group of teachers and administrators were working with representatives from the Cabarrus Health Alliance on a healthy meal choices exercise.
N.C. New Schools is a professional services agency that focuses on developing high-performing schools and school districts through innovative approaches to teacher and administrator training.
“We’ve also talked with college interns who are here and asked them what they wished they had learned in high school. One of the students said ‘I wish I had been pushed harder. I wish I had been asked bigger questions.’ I think it’s important for educators to hear that,” Marcus said.
More than 125 educators participated in Monday’s activities, including the Duplin County Schools superintendent and educators from every part of the state.
“For one thing, I’ve noticed the unique opportunities that I didn’t know were right here in our state,” said Sandy Berry, who works at the Mattamuskeet Early College High School in Hyde County.
Berry was extracting DNA from strawberries at N.C. State’s Plants for Human Health Institute.
In another session, Berry and others collected samples of bacteria and looked at different plants to see if bacteria would grow on the plants.
Berry worked with Audrey Hoffman, a P2EP intern through N.C. State and the NCRC. She is a student at Catawba College and plans to be a high school biology and chemistry teacher.
“This gives me some teaching experience. There’s only so much you can learn from the classroom,” Hoffman said. “Internships are really important. I don’t think people realize how many opportunities there are. Research is such a huge important part of science. You don’t truly know science until you know the research that goes along with it.”
Aubrey Mast, an extension agent for nutrition, said the group also looked at how the N.C. Research Campus is impacting human health through science. One area the educators saw was broccoli research and the vegetable’s potential health benefits.
The educators also worked with bio-discovery kits and learned about research into antibiotic resistance, Mast said.
Bringing educators through the Institute works well with its mission.
“My job is to get the research into consumers’ hands and to impact behavior changes. Teaching the teachers is just another way to take this research back into their classrooms to impact the next generation. The reality is most of our children are impacted by cardio-vascular disease, cancer, diabetes and that’s another way for them to understand they have the power in their daily choices to impact all these kind of issues,” Mast said.
The STEM Day project also saw more than 125 educators at several other Charlotte-area businesses. Other Cabarrus participants included Great Wolf Lodge (hydraulic systems), Legrand (engineering and advanced manufacturing), and S&D Coffee (quality assurance in coffee production).
The program is a prelude to this summer’s annual New Schools Summer Institute that will have more than 900 educators.
Contact Mark Plemmons at 704-789-9140.