An Oak Ridge business and education partnership launched with the help of Roane State Community College hasÂ boosted middle school student interest in science and math.
The students, from seven area school systems, participated in a “Lab-in-a-Box” pilot program by the Rural Communities STEM Initiative, or RCSI, during the past academic year, a press release said.
An evaluation by Roane State found that:
- 70.9 percent of students responded that the labs increased their interest in science or math.
- 91.5 percent of students reported that they liked doing the labs.
- 85 percent of students achieved a high level (80 percent or greater) of competence in the state standards addressed with each Lab-in-a-Box.
- 67.6 percent of students wrote that the labs motivated them to achieve in science or math.
RSCI is an Oak Ridge business and education partnership seeking to improve science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, skills of regional K-12 students, and RSCC President Gary Goff helped launch it.
â€œWe are very encouraged by the results of the pilot program,â€ Goff said. â€œBusinesses, higher education, local school systems, and talented and enthusiastic teachers worked together to make this possible. The results show that students who have exciting hands-on experiences in math and science can be inspired to pursue careers in STEM subjects.â€
Teachers participating in the pilot also reported excellent results, the release said. According to the evaluation, the average teacher rating for studentsâ€™ interest and engagement in the labs was 4.2 (out of 5.0).
The kits were used by school systems in Anderson, Campbell, Campbell, Morgan, Roane, and Scott counties, and Lenoir City and Oneida.
The Lab-in-a-Box set includes â€œMath: How Biologists Divide,â€ â€œMath: Math in the Animal Kingdom,â€ â€œBiology: Species, Symmetry and Segments,â€ â€œGeology: Mineral Properties and Identification,â€ â€œGeology: Understanding the Rock Cycle,â€ â€œChemistry: Do You See What I See,â€ and â€œChemistry: Capture the Rainbow.â€
The release said teachers often do not have enough lab materials for students to conduct experiments due to limited resources, but the Lab-in-a-Box kits include plenty of samples, enabling teachers to offer hands-on learning experiences. The lab lesson plans are aligned with state curriculum standards in the related subjects.
The average cost of a Lab-in-a-Box set is $7,500, the release said. The Roane State Foundation raised private donations to pay for the kits.
Organizations that support RCSI are the East Tennessee Economic Council, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Roane State, and many East Tennessee businesses that depend on a STEM-related workforce from rural countiesâ€”as well as other businesses that wish to see higher student academic achievement in STEM-related subjects.
Key leaders of RCSI include Goff and Barry Stephenson, president and CEO of Oak Ridge-based Materials and Chemistry Laboratory Inc., the release said.
For more information on sponsoring the Rural Communities STEM Initiative, contact the Roane State Foundation at (865) 882-4507 or visit www.ruralstem.org.