The Edmond Sun

Local News

August 20, 2012

Fellowship immerses Deer Creek teacher in real-world science

EDMOND — Deer Creek High School teacher Jennifer Bush is returning to her classroom this fall with a deeper understanding of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts after spending part of her summer break engaged in an immersive research program at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash.

Bush was one of just 20 teachers from across the country selected to participate in the research project at the PNNL through the Siemens Teachers As Researchers (STARs) fellowship program.

“We went into a laboratory setting and acted as research scientists for two weeks and presented our findings to fellow teachers,” Bush said.

Working in small groups, teachers collaborated with scientific teams to conduct individually designed research projects that will give them real-world experience to bring back to their classrooms.

Bush worked with a team of scientists and fellow teachers to look at torrefaction — a process that reduces the biomass volume of burnable materials to give them higher energy content and to make them more efficient fuels — as part of an elite fellowship program.

“I plan to redirect the focus of my teaching onto things that basically the industry is looking for,” Bush said, “including using lab notebooks.”

She said when her students ask her why they have to keep lab notebooks now she can say, “There is a reason, scientists actually keep notebooks. I went, I did this and I learned.”

She added that there is a need for students who can use Excel as well as mathematics skills.

“I plan on finding lessons that can help them get that experience in these two areas,” Bush said.

STARs is part of the Siemens STEM Academy, a premier online professional development community for STEM educators empowering and celebrating excellence in STEM education.

The Siemens Foundation, Discovery Education and their partners developed the STARs fellowship to invigorate teachers by immersing them in authentic research alongside some of the country’s brightest scientific minds.

“We hope that Jennifer’s experience at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the experiences of her cohorts, will help inspire their students to become our country’s next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation.

“This was an amazing opportunity to put STEM concepts into action and connect what I’ve been teaching in the classroom to the real world,” Bush said. “I can’t wait to get back to my students to share with them what I learned.”

Bush said she received a grant from the Deer Creek Foundation to purchase software for virtual labs her classes.

In addition to their research, Bush and the other STARs fellows were involved in a number of facility tours and seminars aimed at helping them effectively incorporate research into their classrooms. Each teacher also received a grant to purchase equipment and/or supplies for their classroom.

 A National Board Certified teacher, Bush has a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Central Oklahoma, and currently teaches Anatomy/Physiology, Physical Science and Biology II at Deer Creek High School.

She is an active member of Professional Oklahoma Educators, the Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, and has written multiple grants to use technology in the classroom and attend national conferences. Bush stays active in her district by sponsoring the academic team, the swim team and serving on several different committees.

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