The Research Triangle Park

STEM ExternTrips | Educators’ Perspectives Pt. 1

By Editor Nov 29, 2017

STEM in the Park offers Educator ExternTrips twice a year for K-12 educators to spend a few hours visiting local STEM companies for an out of the classroom educator field trip. These ExternTrips expose educators to real world careers so that they can bring this experience back to the classroom and utilize it in their lesson plans.

If your company is interested in hosting educators for a half-day immersion experience, sign up here! Please contact Christine Lee (lee@rtp.org) for more information.


Red Hat ExternTrip

Post by: Debbie Schelin, Middle School Science Teacher

Hats off to Red Hat for a wonderful day!  I truly appreciate the planning and effort that went into creating a meaningful day. The information shared about Red Hat and Open Source/Open Organizations helped me to better understand your goal and mindset. My take away was “a community powered approach to diversity and inclusion.”

Thank you for the tour of Red Hat, Curriculum ideas for my classroom, CO.LAB presentation of STEAM mobile learning and coding clubs ideas!  The Girls in Tech presentation was also meaningful… I am still replaying in my mind the “touchstones” analogy for our girls that suffer from any stigma.  Offering them opportunities to complete projects that replace the negative story they may have of their life experiences with positive, confidence building stories of who they are and can become. Collaborating, open sharing, and building self confidence and worth in an open source environment is such a great path to follow… for all ages.  Thanks Red Hat for sharing your time and mission with us!

United States Environmental Protection Agency ExternTrip

Post by: Emma Refvem, High School Science Teacher

As a high school science teacher, one of the most important ways to help my curriculum is to stay fresh with current science. The ability to connect the topics of my curriculum to real-world jobs, real-world studies, and real-world impacts is crucial to developing a strong course. Attending the session at the EPA was an opportunity for me to interact with scientists actively studying the content I am tasked with teaching.

I was inspired to utilize online mapping tools to study epidemiology and its connection to land use and waste generation. I talked with a mathematician/computer scientist who is developing a SIMS-like computer program to study individual exposure to everyday chemicals, and realized that my students engineering department and computer science classes would love to work on a team like that. Seeing how the work of the EPA is connected to that of the Department of Homeland Security, connecting stormwater runoff with decontamination of chemical threats, planted a seed of possibly creating a cross-curricular project with social studies classes. Finally, seeing the cookstove research made me think of more ways to connect environmental science to social justice and highlighted the interconnectedness of this science.

I often forget about the wealth of high-quality science being done just down the road from us. I found ways to invigorate my teaching for all levels, from freshman Earth Science to AP Environmental Science, and I only had to drive 30 minutes from my school site to access it.

Syngenta ExternTrip

Post by: Charles Murrill, 6th Grade Math Teacher

I had the pleasure of attending a STEM in the Park Educator ExternTrip with Syngenta. Of course I never knew that this R&D plant biotechnology organization existed let alone in Research Triangle Park.

Following the Syngenta overview and product safety lectures, Jason Quigley led our group on the most fascinating tour I have been on in a long time. At the first phase of the tour, we ran into Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton, one of the founders of modern plant biotechnology and a lead scientist of Syngenta. She stopped what she was doing and spent nearly ten minutes talking about the formation of the company and the difference between how things were (methodology) and where we are now in plant gene research, trials, and productivity. Our tour included a visit to the innovation Center and Advanced Crop Lab Tour.

The greenhouse has totally awesome, environmental controls allow conditions conducive to growing crops and producing seeds in record time and with optimum proficiency. We saw a diverse irrigation system, optimal plant lighting, fans to simulate the wind and pollen covers to control pollination. Best of all we saw a variety of plants thriving optimally (corn, soybean, sugarcane) and all the rest. Thank you Syngenta for waking up my mind to the “Future of Seed Trait Technology” and for caring enough to make it possible to feed the world more food with less.

EA Genomics ExternTrip

Post by: John Bray, High School Science Teacher

I attended a STEM in the Park ExternTrip at EA Genomics. We were given an overview of the research that takes place and were given a tour of the lab, getting to see the processes and technology that are being utilized. The ExternTrip at EA Genomics allowed me to see firsthand the work that is taking place in RTP. In the weeks following the ExternTrip, I taught my students about biotechnology and DNA technology. This ExternTrip provided me with new knowledge surrounding the technology that is being used and developed “in the real world.” I was able to share this knowledge with my students, helping them to understand what the future of DNA technology looks like and how quickly biotechnology changes.

Specifically, I was able to talk to my students about the future of customized medicine. This knowledge provides insight to my students surrounding the importance of DNA technology and the importance of this to their lives. Without attending this ExternTrip, I would not have had the same level of knowledge on current research in this field and would not have been able to share this information with my students. Thank you to EA Genomics and thank you to STEM in the Park!

These posts have been edited and condensed for clarity.