These STEM kits will let two DC-area teachers bring the lab to students' homes - Technical.ly DC

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These STEM kits will let two DC-area teachers bring the lab to students’ homes

Hands-on STEM education has been a challenge during the pandemic, so the Society for Science & the Public awarded Deborah Branch and Samantha Novak with these research kits to reach students in a new way.

Deborah Branch and Samantha Novak.

(Courtesy photos)

Two D.C.-area teachers are getting a chance to improve their remote and in-person learning tactics after receiving $2,000 worth of STEM research kits from Dupont Circle-based Society for Science & the Public (SSP).

Deborah Branch, science department co-chair at Adelphi, Maryland’s Buck Lodge Middle School, and Samantha Novak, science teacher at Center City Public Charter Schools–Brightwood, each received $1,000 in STEM research kits to encourage their students to conduct more project-based science research, even as they learn from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes as part of an initiative from SSP’s commitment to donate $100,000 in STEM research kits to 100 science research teachers from underserved communities around the U.S. Distributed through the society’s STEM Research Grants program, each teacher was able to choose from a selection of 13 kits.

“In the last 10 months, STEM teachers have had to completely overhaul learning. It has been particularly difficult to move hands-on research and project-based learning, such as science labs, to a virtual environment without the appropriate equipment and materials,” said SSP President and CEO Maya Ajmera in a statement. “By providing teachers and students with STEM research kits and equipment, we hope to accelerate STEM learning and spark a curiosity in science and engineering topics, despite current circumstances.”

It’s up to the selected teachers to come up with their own STEM-inspired projects for their students to use the kits with. The kits include equipment such as paper microscopes, an electronics software platform, weather sensors and neuroscience technology.

A STEM research kit put together by the Society for Science & the Public. (Courtesy photo)

Branch said she plans to maintain the kits for use in the classroom when schools reopen for in-person instruction, but if there’s an opportunity for work at home, they will be issued out to students based on the research plans they create.

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“Technology allows us to continue providing educational opportunities for our students,” Branch told Technical.ly. “The resources are appreciated, because hands-on work in science is one factor in making content easier to understand, and more memorable.”

Novak says she’s been using technology to give her students a better virtual classroom experience by creating virtual hands-on labs and activities. She’s been able to convert the whole lab experience to a virtual environment since students can’t physically take measurements, collect data or use typical lab equipment.

“I will continue to create experiences digitally that mirror our in-person labs and activities,” she told Technical.ly. “For example, while learning about the Grand Canyon, in the classroom, we do a rock sort. I have turned this into an online interactive experience for students.”

Novak plans to use the STEM research kits she received to allow students to take lab equipment home every few weeks so they can learn and ultimately share some lessons with classmates.

“My students and I are so excited to have access to lab equipment that they will be able to bring home and use,” Novak said. “They have been talking about missing the classroom experience and I think this will help them miss that less.”

Check out the full list of teachers who were awarded STEM research kits.

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