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Science Wednesday: EPA Scientists Supporting the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) of Education

2011 October 12

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Jing Zhang

As a kid, science class was always a treasure trove of exciting experiments and new activities. Science activities, from blowing up balloons to learn about air to displacing water to learn about matter, were always a welcomed break from the usual lectures and reading assignments. As an impressionable young student, I was easily captivated and inspired in science class, mostly due to the efforts of my teachers to create interesting and engaging science lessons.

Naturally, I was delighted to find out that EPA offers Educational Outreach Workshops at the Agency’s campus in Research Triangle Park, NC where staff scientists can learn how to share their work in the classroom. The workshop, organized by EPA’s Kelly Leovic featured a walk-through of hands-on activities and games, with opportunities to partake in the fun. The activities engage students in learning a wide range of topics related to environmental science, including water, air, climate change, animal behavior, rocks and soils, and ecology. Each activity has materials and kits available for EPA scientists to borrow for outreach events.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many EPA scientists take time out of their full schedules in order to participate in educational outreach. From judging science fairs to working at career fair booths to giving guest presentations in classrooms, the scientists draw on their own enthusiasm and knowledge in order to inspire interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

The workshop participants with years of experience in outreach shared success stories as well as a few disaster stories with the participants who are new or less experienced. They also gave valuable advice on how to engage students of different age groups, ranging from kindergarten to high school and college students.

The Educational and STEM Outreach Program in RTP is very active in local communities. What started out years ago as a few scientists wanting to inspire interest in science in their own children’s classrooms has grown into a strong outreach effort by scientists from across EPA.

Due to the rapidly advancing world, inspiring students to be interested in STEM has become a top priority. It only takes one eye-opening experience to stir up curiosity about a subject. I’m glad that EPA scientists are devoting time to making that eye-opening opportunity available through their outreach efforts.

About the author: Jing Zhang is a student services contractor with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. MarylandG permalink
    October 12, 2011

    Getting our youth interested in studying STEM fields will be key in keeping our country ahead of the curve in the globalized economy.

  2. EnviroBro permalink
    October 12, 2011

    What kinds of activities are being done at these schools?

    Also, how are these schools selected? Is this program aimed at lower SES area schools or science magnet type schools?

  3. MarylandU permalink
    October 12, 2011

    Well written, great points.

  4. Jing permalink
    October 13, 2011

    The activities vary depending on the age of the students. For younger elementary schoolers for example, we have an EPA developed book on air quality ( We also have kits measuring lung capacity by having kids displace water by blowing into a tube. For older children, there are a variety of hands-on activities including extracting strawberry DNA, toxicity and concentration experiments, and an energy board game learning about energy grids and CO2.

    The most important thing is to expose the students to a variety of research areas and careers in STEM. EPA researchers attend a variety of schools in the Triangle area. Schools in the area interested should visit the website to request a speaker (

  5. prakash permalink
    January 3, 2012

    Educational and STEM Outreach Program in RTP is really useful to the students. nice task.

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