CHANNAHON — District 17 teachers have been bringing new concepts and an emphasis on exploring science and math careers into their classrooms this year, after attending summer camps in Washington, D.C., and New Orleans.
ExxonMobil, which has a refinery in the school district, has sponsored Channahon teachers to the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers’ Academy for several years, including last summer, and, for the first time, it also sponsored district teachers to the new Sally Ride Science Academy.
Four fifth- and sixth-grade teachers from Three Rivers School and its principal, Susan Kavich, attended the Sally Ride Academy, and five third- and fourth-grade teachers from Pioneer Path and N.B. Galloway Schools attended the Mickelson Academy.
Nicole Gubbins, a sixth-grade teacher at Three Rivers, said she has been incorporating science careers into her teachings all fall as a result of attending the Sally Ride Academy. Just recently, her students were learning about volcanoes, and Gubbins wrote five related careers on the board and assigned each lab group member to be one of the scientists.
Students were cinder core volcanologists, shield volcanologists, composite volcanologists, identifying geologists, or lead scientists.
“The most important concept we learned at the Sally Ride Academy was that there are so many different science professions out there that you don’t even think of,” Gubbins said. “We learned how to bring these back to the classroom to promote careers in science.”
Scientists aren’t just Albert Einstein-types, Gubbins said, and they don’t just work in laboratories with test tubes. Most of them are out in the field. She said they are as varied as meteorite curators, air quality engineers, geochemists, and tropical ecologists.
“Every unit we do, we highlight the careers as we go along,” she said.
For our country to continue to be a powerhouse, Gubbins said, we need to stress math and science careers and have firm math and science education in our grade and high schools.
Attending the academy over the summer helped her strengthen her commitment to science education, she said, and gave her more science career resources for her students.
Brenna Luebbing, a third-grade Pioneer Path teacher, attended the Mickelson academy this summer.
“It was really cool,” she said. “One of the best parts was getting to know different teachers from different parts of the country and learning what they’re doing in their classrooms.”
The Mickelson academy is a professional development program designed to provide grade-school teachers with the skills necessary to motivate students to pursue careers in science and math. As the academy’s website states, “to develop the next generation of science-savvy students.”
“We focused on readings about science and math,” Luebbing said of the academy, “and how we can bring math and science together in the classroom.”
Luebbing said she has already started her students keeping science notebooks. They write down what they have done in the classroom and with experiments. She has been trying to mix science and math, as well, such as by having them graph results of experiments.
“With all the technology out there today,” she said, “it’s important for our kids to have that sense of discovery and seeing how the world works around them. We need more engineers and scientists out there. I think it’s important for teachers to help foster a love of science and math in their students.”
Three Rivers Principal Susan Kavich said her teachers who attended the Sally Ride academy have already set three dates in which to share with the other teachers information they learned.
“We are so grateful to ExxonMobil,” Kavich said. “It’s only through their generosity and their commitment to promote science and math in the Channahon school district that we have been able to send our teachers to these academies.”
Kavich said one of the activities they did at the Sally Ride academy was to draw a scientist. Most of them drew a man, she said, who had frizzy hair like Einstein and glasses and a lab coat. Then, they had to name scientists.
They were all “dead guys,” she said, which is a stereotype teachers and students need to drop. Scientists are not Einstein look-alikes, and they certainly are not all dead white guys. They are both genders, all races, and don’t necessarily spend all their time in laboratories.
“I hope that we can inform students about the variety of strong science jobs available to them,” Kavich said.
Even those students who do not choose science careers will benefit from a strong science and math curriculum, she added. Firefighters, teachers, just about every job, need that background.
“When you teach the scientific method,” she said, “what is that but problem-solving? We problem-solve in our everyday life.”