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

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.

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