The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

September 19, 2013

High school teachers prepare tomorrow’s scientists


TARBORO — Much attention has been given to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in an effort to improve the nation’s competitiveness with regards to developing technology.  In response to ensuring that area students are introduced to the STEM approach, area science teachers are providing rigorous educational opportunities for high school students.  Tarboro High School (THS) physics teacher John Warren has the ball rolling.

Warren had his students gather outside using beanbags to play the game cornhole to understand how science terms accuracy and precision are related.  Warren explained that the students tend to get these concepts confused.  

“Now, when my students are questioned about accuracy and precision, the cornhole exercise we accomplished will be in their heads,” said Warren.  After the students were done with the exercise, the students drew a diagram reporting where the beanbags landed.

Quantasia Wooten, a student in Warren’s class, was able to clarify the objectives of the activity.  “Accuracy is about hitting the target, while precision deals with grouping, if you don’t hit the target,” Wooten stated.

“Meaningful learning like this is what makes the content come alive for the students,” expressed THS principal Michael Turner.  “When (students) are fully engaged, the learning is endless.  This is the way to reach success in applying the STEM initiative to prepare tomorrow’s scientists.”

SouthWest Edgecombe High School teacher Melissa Drake is convinced that the colleagues she works with are the keys to a successful STEM curriculum.  “The collaboration between my colleagues and I is incredible and that plays a huge part in helping to prepare our students,” she said .

One of the components of STEM education is the need to teach the science curriculum in conjunction with other subject areas.  Drake emphasized that interdisciplinary collaboration, well-equipped labs and technology are instrumental to success.  “Technology enhances what the students can learn.  With it, they can experience spatial three-dimensional models that they cannot get out of a textbook,” said Drake.

Hector Oviedo, a junior in Drake’s class, said he felt he was being thoroughly prepared to think like a scientist as a result of the “small labs, strong science teachers, and the team approach” the teachers employ.

“Our teachers make sure our labs are fun and interesting, while also presenting us with problem solving opportunities,” said Alexis Price, also a junior at SouthWest. “We’re learning things we’ve never learned and probably wouldn’t get to do anywhere else.”

Warren is gearing his students to prepare to compete in the Science Olympiad, sponsored by North Carolina State University.  “It’s a competition with all the sciences but the main emphasis is on physics, chemistry, astronomy, engineering, and biology,” stated Warren.  “Students build rockets, parachutes, and all sorts of amazing contraptions.  We’re going to prepare for this all year and we hope to make Edgecombe County proud.”

Warren has had 16 students compete in state championships like Science Olympiad and plans to continue this tradition in an effort to ensure that the students in Edgecombe County are prepared as global competitors.