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Teaching teachers

September 3, 2010

Science students at a dozen high schools and middle schools throughout the Chicago region are in for a treat this fall.

Their teachers attended the ASM Materials Camp for Teachers at NIU, and their classroom presentations will never be the same. The camp was designed to teach instructors new, innovative and inexpensive ways to conduct classroom experiments that grab student attention and get them to engage with science. Held from July 26 to July 30, the camp was provided free of charge.

Science teachers Christina Magee, from Eisenhower Middle School (left) and Valerie English, from Kellar Middle School, experiments to energize their classes.

“This camp was fantastic in every aspect. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it,” said Stan Cebrzynski, who has taught science in Johnsburg, Ill., for 33 years. “I just can’t get over how good it was and how much I enjoyed myself.”

Cebrzynski and the other spent their days on campus at the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology learning innovative, hands-on approaches to enhance their instruction of materials sciences, with an emphasis on using everyday items in a series of labs and experiments.

Sharon Stone, who teaches at Unity Junior High East, in Cicero, Ill., said that attending the camp gave her a new perspective on teaching.

“I learned so much and the hands-on side of the camp was tremendously valuable as it let me see how to run the lab and what the student’s process through the lab will be. I have so many possibilities for my classroom now.”

NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology hosted the event as part of its efforts to improve science, technology, engineering and technology at all academic levels. The college holds a number of camps and events each year aimed at getting younger students, and minority students, engaged in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities.

For example, the college has been selected the last two summers as one of about 30 across the country to host the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, a two-week residential experience that provides underprivileged students a chance to explore participate in fun experiments that teach them about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The college also has programs that reach out to girls in middle school and has partnered with Chicago area Girl Scouts to introduce them to STEM topics.

In total, 15 teachers attended the ASM Materials Camp, representing the following high schools: Aurora Christian School, Boylan Catholic High School,  Eisenhower Middle School,  Fischer Middle School,  Freeport High School, Johnsburg High School, Kellar Middle School, Kennedy Middle School, Paw Paw High School, Thomas J. Kellar Middle School, Unity Junior High School and Vernon Hills High School.