Support extends programs and equipment to rural schools impacted by Covid
Bend Science Station offers high-quality, laboratory-based science education for more than 7,000 students and their teachers a year in Central Oregon and its environs.
“We open minds and open doors, empowering young scientists to change lives, including their own,” said Lisa Bermudez, development director of the nonprofit. “As a leading STEM education resource in our community, we provide innovative, inquiry-based programming for K-12 students and graduate-level training for educators.”
The Roundhouse Foundation partnered with Bend Science Station last year to help support their STEM Ed program expansion into Gilchrist, 46 miles south of Bend. STEM Ed is a successful training program which addresses the critical need for relevant science education by providing teachers with intensive training in technology-based data collection, high-quality curriculum development and instructional practices and access to a comprehensive equipment Lending Library designed to allow teachers to effectively carry out experiments in their own classrooms.
“Of all the programs Bend Science Station has designed and delivered over the past 19 years, STEM Ed has the greatest capacity to leverage our expertise in delivering data-driven, technology-based science education,” said Bermudez.
In a world where our survival is increasingly related to the knowledge of science and technology, all students need access to quality STEM education. This is especially true in underserved communities with limited access to educational resources. Located 95 miles from their Klamath County School District headquarters, Gilchrist teachers are geographically isolated from STEM related professional development. As Gilchrist families also contend with issues of financial hardship, the need for additional support in this rural community is undeniable.
Another challenge for the Gilchrist school community is the economic fallout from Covid. Teachers and administrators were forced to play new roles in their town, which included driving school buses to bring food to students and negotiating bills for families, all while struggling to deliver remote curriculum to their classes. An investment in STEM education in Gilchrist is critical to reducing some of these challenges.
During the 2021-22 pilot year at the Gilchrist School, STEM Ed served eight K-12 teachers and 210 students. Training included intensive, small group instruction on world-class data-collection technology along with best instructional practices for hands-on STEM teaching. Teachers are learning to use the Vernier LabQuest®, a hand-held, stand-alone computer that collects scientific data with a range of probes and sensors. Science Station instructors are working with Gilchrist staff to integrate the use of Vernier technology into existing curriculum so that students can conduct their own experiments and collect data in their own classrooms.
While the Science Station customizes age-appropriate lesson plans for teachers, the experimental possibilities for students are seemingly endless. Bermudez notes, “The same temperature probe that measures the hand temperature of a kindergartener can also be used for a fractional distillation lab in high school chemistry.” Ultimately, STEM Ed works because teachers are empowered to develop their own curriculum, working alongside their students to innovate and problem solve.
The Bend Science Station is committed to expanding this successful STEM Ed program to other Oregon communities. While Roundhouse Foundation funds are providing STEM Ed programming and equipment for the Gilchrist School in Klamath County, they are also establishing a model for serving more rural and frontier communities with relevant teacher training.