Dow, ACS Seek to Fill Gap in STEM Education
by Matthew V. Veazey
Tuesday, March 03, 2015
Do you know a chemistry teacher who would benefit from this new partnership?
The Dow Chemical Co. and the American Chemical Society (ACS) are teaming up to enhance understanding of the chemical industries in the classroom.
"As the founding partner of this program, we are proud to collaborate with ACS on this first of its kind community to empower chemistry teachers inside and outside of the classroom as they work to inspire the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs," stated Andrew N. Liveris, Dow's chairman and CEO in a January press release announcing his company's $1 million sponsorship of a series of nationwide chemistry teacher summits.
The summits, spearheaded by the ACS unit American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT), will launch this July when approximately 30 chemistry teachers will gather in Dow's home base of Midland, Mich., to gain insights on new approaches for stimulating their students' interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. Subsequent summits will take place in cities throughout the United States through 2017. The Dow-AACT partnership also will produce more than 750 lesson plans, multimedia resources, demonstrations and other chemistry teaching materials for use in elementary and secondary school classrooms.
"We are thrilled to be working together with Dow to support teachers of chemistry across the country and develop the workforce of the tomorrow," stated Madeleine Jacobs, ACS' executive director and chief executive officer. "We hope that this partnership can serve as a model that will catalyze greater engagement between chemical industries and local communities."
AACT's point man for the program says that the partnership is being implemented at an opportune time. "Enrollment in high school chemistry classes is on the rise," according to Adam Boyd, AACT program director. "Yet, only 35 percent of high school chemistry teachers have both a bachelor's degree in chemistry and are certified to teach it."
DownstreamToday recently caught up with Boyd to discuss the partnership's vision for improving chemistry and STEM education. Read on for his insights.
DownstreamToday: From AACT's perspective, what are the current limitations of chemistry and STEM education?
Adam Boyd: One of the limitations we see is that teachers need access to more chemistry teaching resources to help them meet the needs of their students. To that end, AACT is working to produce safe, trustworthy and useful resources that teachers can implement easily in their classrooms. Not only will these resources help students to understand chemistry by teaching it in an applied context, they'll also help teachers by providing them with a reliable source of information. This will be particularly helpful to new teachers or teachers looking for different ways of differentiating instruction for students.
DownstreamToday: AACT is the first national organization of its kind in the U.S. What gap does it aim to fill in terms of enlightening chemistry teachers about ways to prepare students for chemistry and STEM careers?
The process of developing career-ready students of science is sometimes conceptualized as a pipeline. As students mature, they progress through the pipeline, assimilating new pieces of knowledge into their cognitive framework. Unfortunately, the major challenge of this process is that students who do not develop the necessary foundation often drop out of the science pipeline and struggle to re-enter it.
To prevent disadvantage from accumulating, AACT will provide consistent support for students throughout the science pipeline by supporting their teachers who play a critical role in helping them reach their potential.
DownstreamToday: How are expectations changing in terms of chemistry/STEM education? For instance, what are petrochemicals employers expecting that chemistry/STEM teachers – and educational institutions in general – incorporating into their curricula now compared to, say, 10 years ago?
Boyd: I think we're seeing a greater emphasis on students understanding chemistry conceptually. In addition having strong quantitative skills, students of chemistry are being challenged to explain why they observe a particular phenomenon or to understand the limitations of a model. This emphasis on critical thinking is well aligned with the marketplace in which businesses need employees who can use well-established systems but also identify opportunities for improvement and growth.
DownstreamToday: How will teachers be selected for the Dow-AACT summit?
Boyd: From 2015 to 2017, AACT and Dow will convene six teacher summits in Dow communities across the country. The first will be held in Midland, Mich., this July. Teachers from these communities will be eligible to participate and a diverse cohort will be selected based on teaching experience, grade level, interest and other factors.
DownstreamToday: Once they've completed the summit and returned to the classroom, what sort of support will Dow and AACT provide teachers to ensure that their students benefit from the program as well?
Boyd: Our theory of change is that by supporting teachers, who first spark in students a passion for science, chemistry education is made more innovative, relevant and effective. Because all attendees of the teacher summits will receive sponsored memberships to AACT as part of their participation, our support of them will be ongoing.
DownstreamToday: Many of the people who visit DownstreamToday.com work in the petrochemicals industry. Is there a way for them to get involved in this effort?
We're very grateful for the support and interest of so many scientists, engineers and friends of chemistry. We could especially use help spreading the word about AACT to local teachers. To learn more about how to get involved with AACT, including how you can join or how you can sponsor membership for teachers in your area, please visit us on the web at teachchemistry.org
Matthew V. Veazey has written about the upstream and downstream O&G sectors for more than a decade. Email Matthew at email@example.com. Twitter: @The_Mattalyst