Traveling Science Demonstrations Program Overview

Introduction

The Traveling Science Demonstrations Program is a partnership between the Westinghouse Savannah River Company and the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center, both located in Aiken, South Carolina. The program was developed to assist schools in the Central Savannah River Area to deal with problems common to schools nationally. These include the lack of up-to-date science equipment, the importance of and need for additional hands-on science activities, and the value for K-12 students to interact with working scientists and engineers in order to see the connection between their mathematics and science studies and the world outside of the classroom. This program provides a selection of science kits that teach principles of science in the areas of biology, chemistry and physics covering topics such as simple machines, lasers, electricity, radioactivity, and the mechanics of liquids and solids. The Center conducts workshops to train teachers on the use of the kits. Once trained, teachers may borrow the kits from the Center or request volunteers from the Savannah River Site to visit the classroom and conduct a demonstration or facilitate a hands-on activity using the kits. The program has been extremely successful, receiving local, national, and soon international attention. The following seeks to provide the reader with a brief history of the program, salient details of the program itself, including program statistics to date, and future directions.

Program History

Logistics

Future Directions










Program History

The Savannah River Site is a unique, 310 square mile complex located near Aiken, South Carolina. The facility is owned by the Department of Energy and is presently operated under contract by the Westinghouse Savannah River Company. Born amid Cold War tensions, the Savannah River Site played a critical role in our country's peacekeeping strategy for more than 40 years. For decades, scientists and engineers at the Savannah River Site worked to manufacture materials for nuclear weapons. In the process, they quietly advanced science by developing and applying new technologies to solve complex operational and environmental challenges. Even as the Site continues to fill its national security role, it is directing its extraordinary scientific and technical talent toward new goals. One of those goals is to help train tomorrow's scientists and engineers through educational outreach programs such as the Traveling Science Demonstrations Program.
The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center is a cooperative effort by the University of South Carolina at Aiken, local industry, and public school districts in the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). The purpose of this effort is to establish a permanent program for enhancing science and mathematics education in the elementary and secondary schools of the area. Its hands-on approach to teaching is designed to help students and teachers experience the beauty, the order and the power of science and mathematics, as well as the interest and fun of discovery. The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center enables students, teachers, and the public to experience science and mathematics in a challenging yet exciting way.
In 1988 the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center began working with the CSRA Science and Engineering Fair, Inc., to increase student awareness of the importance of science and mathematics in everyday life. During this time, the Center worked with several scientists from the Savannah River Site to provide scientific demonstrations and workshops to both students and teachers. This effort was in response to a lack of up to date equipment in local science classrooms and a need for an interaction between K-12 students and working scientists. Because of the initial success of this effort, a grant was submitted to the South Carolina Universities Research and Education Foundation (SCUREF) to acquire needed equipment and expand the effort. The grant was accepted and the new CSRA Traveling Science Demonstrations Program was funded from February 1, 1993 to June 30, 1996.
The grant called for a cooperative effort between the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center and the CSRA Science and Engineering Fair, Inc., to recruit and train volunteers from the Savannah River Site and to coordinate their visits to local schools to present the demonstrations and activities. The Westinghouse Savannah River Company chose its Economic Development Division, Education Outreach Programs Department to coordinate this effort. The Economic Development Division's mission statement is "To sustain Savannah River Site core competencies, create new jobs, and support regional educational and economic development objectives through new sources of funding and innovative use of site technology and assets". One of Economic Development Division's goals supporting its mission is to "provide direct support to the regional educational system to enhance critical math and science skills of area students. The Economic Development Division will sponsor educational outreach activities to improve teacher and student skills in science, mathematics and engineering, and implement initiatives to provide a highly skilled, marketable employee base that aids in attracting new industries and jobs to the area." Thus, the basis for the timely collaboration of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center and Westinghouse Savannah River Company's Education Outreach Programs Department is clear.
During the first year of funding (1993), materials were purchased and in 1994 kits were developed. To ensure that the kits were appropriate, they were developed cooperatively by teachers from the Central Savannah River Area and scientists and engineers from the Savannah River Site. Teacher workshops were conducted in the Spring and Fall of 1994 to train teachers in the use of the newly developed kits. The workshops were facilitated by the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center staff and Savannah River Site volunteers. After training, teachers were allowed to check out kits for use in their classrooms.
By August of 1994, Westinghouse's Education Outreach Programs had recruited over 100 volunteer scientists and engineers to help in field testing and fine tuning the kits and to demonstrate their use in classrooms. In August 1994, these volunteers attended a one day workshop and received training in the use of the equipment in the kits, lesson plan development, and interaction with students at various skill and knowledge levels. Volunteer training was required before interaction with teachers and children in the classroom. Analysis of computerized critiques of this workshop suggests that the Traveling Science Demonstrations workshop for volunteers was extremely helpful in preparing the volunteers to work with teachers and their students.
The format for the teacher workshops was modified using what was learned from the volunteer workshop, and thirteen additional teacher workshops were presented during the 1994-95 school year. Analysis of teacher evaluations of these workshops suggests that the Traveling Science Demonstrations workshops for teachers were successful in preparing teachers to use the kits in their classrooms.
To date, the Traveling Science Demonstrations Program has been presented in approximately 20 workshops to over 600 teachers in Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties. Many teachers have checked out the kits for use in their classrooms, but a majority have requested classroom visits from the volunteers. A total of 74 requests for classroom visits were made from January to June, 1995 and 44 of the requests were completed reaching 2,502 students. South Carolina Schools received 93% of the demonstrations, the majority in Aiken County (71%). Seventy-eight of the classroom visits were to elementary schools. Two special demonstrations included participation in Earth Day activities at Redcliffe Elementary School, Jackson, South Carolina, and the South Carolina Army National Guard Discovery Days, a three day career awareness event for high school students held at the Graniteville National Guard Armory, Graniteville, South Carolina.

Logistics

Future Directions

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New Kit Development

The Kit Development Team and individual volunteers are continuing to develop new kits and many are near completion at the time of this writing. These include: 1. Fossils 2. Metals Technologies 3. Waveguides (guiding energy through tubes or pipes to minimize loss) 4. Resonance (how objects and structures respond to selected frequencies) 5. The Speed of Sound (measuring the speed of sound in air and other gases using the principle of resonance) 6. Adhesives (different kinds in common use and how they work) 7. Electricity and Fractions 8. Recycle, Reuse, Reduce (process of recycling paper) 9. Cell Biology, Food Web 10. Household Chemistry 11. Sensors, Electrical Controls, Pressure, Temperature, Mechanical, Steam, Photo Cells 12. Forestry Education (plant succession, hardwoods, softwoods) 13. Crystals (sugar, salt, geodes) 14. Geology (tumblers, polishers)








Logistics

Logistics for the kits and volunteers have been handled jointly by the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center and Westinghouse's Education Outreach Programs. Westinghouse recruits and schedules the volunteers and facilitates program evaluation. The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center maintains, schedules and stores the kits, and interfaces with the schools. Both organizations are involved with volunteer training.
Volunteer recruiting is via word of mouth and an annual request for volunteers is made via Savannah River Site e-mail called SRS OnLine (see Appendix). Outreach Programs maintains a list of volunteers who are qualified to demonstrate or facilitate hands-on activities using each kit. Volunteers are granted some time during working hours and also donate many hours of their own time developing the kits and lesson plans, picking up and returning the kits, and interfacing with teachers before and after classroom visits.
New volunteers are trained through participation in a volunteer workshop which is jointly sponsored once each year by Education Outreach Programs and the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Education Outreach Programs publishes and provides the training manual and the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center provides instruction in pedagogy, learning styles and classroom management. A copy of the 1994-95 training manual is included in the appendix.
Teacher workshops are conducted for groups of teachers as in-service training during or after school. The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center schedules these in-services with Central Savannah River Area schools and provides the kits. Education Outreach Programs schedules the volunteers to demonstrate and teach the use of the kits.
Classroom visits are scheduled by written requests sent to the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center (see appendix for the form). The form itself is distributed to teachers after their training workshop, and is also available through a Ruth Patrick Science Education Center newsletter which is published quarterly. Kit availability is managed using a computer-based checkout system at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Scheduling conflicts are resolved with the requesting teacher, and the completed request form is faxed to a coordinator in Education Outreach Programs. The coordinator consults a database to determine which volunteers are qualified to demonstrate the kits requested and sends out a call via e-mail requesting a volunteer (an example may be found in the appendix). When a match has been made, appropriate dates and names are entered into a master scheduling database. The volunteer is notified and provided with the requesting teacher's name and phone numbers. Volunteers are encouraged to contact the teacher well in advance of the classroom visit to establish expectations, teaching methods, and to correlate topics to the teacher's curriculum. Most volunteers obtain the kit before the scheduled classroom visit directly from the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Occasionally, other arrangements are made such as having the requesting teacher check out the kit or having the Center staff deliver it to the school. Volunteers check the kit, provide needed consumable items (costs reimbursed by the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center), and make any needed repairs. The kits are designed to be turn-key and generally have required little maintenance except for replacing consumable items. Items damaged beyond repair or lost are replaced by the Center. When the visit is complete, the volunteer e-mails the actual visit date and the number of students served to Education Outreach Programs and the master scheduling database is updated.
The program is formally evaluated by the requesting teachers as well as the volunteers using optical mark read forms created and analyzed by Education Outreach Programs. Four forms are currently in use. One form is used by volunteers to evaluate the volunteer workshop. A second form is used by teachers to evaluate the teacher workshops. The third and fourth forms are used to evaluate the classroom visits, one by which volunteers evaluate themselves, and one for classroom teachers to evaluate the volunteers. Examples of each may be found in the appendix. Return of the teacher workshop and volunteer workshop evaluation forms has been excellent and analysis of these may be found in the appendix. Analysis of the classroom visits evaluations is ongoing and will be used to improve volunteer training.

Future Directions

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Future Directions

The Traveling Science Demonstrations Program has been successful and enjoys widespread support in large measure because of the unusually strong and synergistic relationship between the Department of Energy, the Westinghouse Savannah River Company, and the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. This relationship continues to strengthen even in the face of recent budget cuts. The latest call for new volunteers resulted in more than fifty scientists and engineers who would like to participate in the volunteer training workshop to be held on August 14, 1995. The program continues to expand its influence farther into the Central Savannah River Area by offering teacher workshops in Edgefield County, South Carolina, and Columbia and Richmond Counties, Georgia, in the fall of 1995. Many new kits are currently being developed by the Kit Development Team as well as individual volunteers. Finally, the kit checkout procedure has been automated by utilizing Alexandria 3.7, profesional library management software from COMPanion Corporation.
The 1995-96 school year will challenge the Traveling Science Demonstrations Program team. The 30 requests for classroom visits which could not be accommodated last year will receive top priority for scheduling this year. The program has received significant media exposure as well as constant exposure through teacher contact with the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. It is expected that the demand for the kits and classroom visits will increase during the 1995-96 school year and all of the partners in the program are striving to meet the challenge. The Central Savannah River Area is the fortunate beneficiary of this innovative method of transferring an excitement for science from the real world to the classroom where the future economic potential of the region exists in its children.


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