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FSU’s Growing STEM Outreach a Resource for Regional Schools
04/03/2017

By Charles Schelle

Frostburg State University is becoming a growing resource for science, technology, education and mathematics – STEM – education for public schools in Appalachia and beyond through a growing outreach program.

Experiment

Academic Lab Manager Blair Knouse demonstrates an element’s
response to fire in a presentation to Mountain Ridge High
School students recently.

Students watching
Mountain Ridge students watch Knouse lift the slimy results of
an experiment.

The program has matured over the years, originating with school visits taking science experiments and portable telescopes from the FSU Planetarium into schools. Today, students from as far as Gambrills, Md., and Aurora, W.Va., are taking field trips to FSU’s facilities for a day of engagement and inspiration in STEM fields.

During a recent visit, Mountain Ridge High School students saw how elements respond to fire and other interactions in the Bayer MaterialSciences Chemistry Laboratory. Other classes have made their own scented lotions in a laboratory, and younger groups have tested the physics of flight using their own paper airplanes.

The outreach program grew from 1,300 students visiting in the 2014-2015 academic year, to 1,600 in 2015-2016 – an 18 percent increase – and is on pace to eclipse that mark this academic year, said Dr. William Seddon, FSU professor of biology and STEM outreach coordinator. Most of the schools visiting are from rural areas of Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland, with the intention of expanding to more schools in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The visit is free – all schools need to do is provide transportation and contact Seddon to schedule a field trip.

“We’re offering a free field trip and some of these schools around here don’t have a lot of resources,” Seddon said, adding the importance to provide access to higher education opportunities in rural areas.

The experiences are tailored to each grade in school, whether it’s explaining basic concepts, completing interactive experiments and demonstrations, while inspiring students for potential careers and majors in STEM fields, Seddon said. Fourth through sixth grades are a critical time when students decide whether they like STEM subjects and activities and whether they will pursue that interest in school and in life.

“The idea is to get them to understand that science is fun – it certainly is interesting but it can be fun,” Seddon said.

FSU’s quality STEM facilities have equipment not found in high schools, providing students, parents and teachers their first time being exposed to high-tech equipment.

“Some of the teachers may never have been here, so we get the teachers exposed to the university,” Seddon said. ”We have local kids who are coming here who never set foot on this campus.”

David Buskirk ’09/M’12 is a fifth-grade teacher at Cash Valley Elementary School in LaVale and recently took his students to FSU for a STEM day focusing on careers. As an alumnus, he knows the value of FSU’s facilities and faculty. The visit helps Buskirk meet the new Next Generation Science Standards by having students do collaborative and project-based learning in campus laboratories.

“I think it’s amazing in our small area that we have a university like Frostburg State that is easily accessible for public school teachers and students to use,” Buskirk said. “Not many communities in a rural area have an opportunity like that.”

The program extends beyond the 20 faculty and staff members shaping the experience. FSU College of Education students are also developing new lesson plans for the Natural History Museum at FSU to keep the experiences fresh, Seddon added. The Natural History Museum houses animal specimens from all over the world.

Student organizations are all helping out with the programs, too, including student members of the American Chemical Society, National Society for Black Engineers, TriBeta Biology Honor Society and more.

Teachers choose experiences from topics in biology, chemistry, physics and engineering, geography and earth science, mathematics and computer science/information technology. Field trips can also include touring the Natural History Museum, the state-of-the-art Multimedia Learning Center and Planetarium, plus the Sustainable Energy Research Facility.

School groups interested in scheduling a STEM experience to FSU should contact Seddon at 301-687-4707 or wseddon@frostburg.edu.

 

 

For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589
E-mail: news@frostburg.edu