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August 21, 2014, 8:03 am

Science Week offers hands-on learning

Philadelphia-area students and their teachers received lessons in laboratory science during Science Week, a program that supports science education from elementary through high school levels. Twenty schools in the Philadelphia region participated, including Central High, Parkway Center City, the William M. Meredith Elementary School (K-8) in Queen Village, and Green Woods Charter School (K-8) in Roxborough, and students from the Philadelphia Academies Inc.

Elementary through middle school students rotated among six hands-on workshops on astronomy, chromatography, gases, acid/base reactions, electrochemistry and light and color. High school students experienced a “Weird Science on Fuels and Energy” demonstration at the event. Nationally recognized science demonstrator and educator from the University of Illinois at Chicago Lee Marek, presented the lecture to the high school students.

The six-day program was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center March 16-21. Pittcon, the world’s premier annual conference and exposition on laboratory science, hosted the event.

“Pittcon is a nonprofit conference, and our mission has always been science outreach,” said Science Week chair Melinda Stephens. “We want to get students excited about science and we want to get teachers excited about teaching about science. Science Week is a good way for us to get people talking about science as well as present the field in an accurate way.

“The reception of the event has really been great. Both the students and teachers really enjoyed participating in the various workshops throughout the week. We definitely want to continue to bring this event to Philadelphia.”

In addition to the students, teachers also participated in science week. They attended workshops and received information on supplies and materials so they can implement the demonstrated activities in their own classrooms. Participating teachers also could apply for grants to purchase science equipment for their schools.

“The teachers participated in 19 different workshops,” Stephens said. “The topics actually depended on grade level. The forensics workshop, which was called ‘Science Behind Crime Scene Investigation,” was geared toward high school teachers.

“What we really wanted to do with the teacher workshops was have them participate in lessons they can re-create in their own classrooms. Through the workshops, the teachers not only find different ways to engage their students in the field of science, but they might also influence their students to enter the field themselves. It truly is a wonderful thing and the ultimate learning experience.”

Pittcon, The Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh and The Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh, donates more than $1 million a year to provide financial and administrative support for various science outreach activities, including science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums.

During Science Week, Pittcon made a $60,000 donation to participating Science Week schools, including a $10,000 contribution to nonprofit Philadelphia Academies Inc. in support of its recently Quest biotechnology education program, which prepares students at Lincoln and Roxborough high schools for careers in one of the nation’s fastest-growing industries. Pittcon also donated $5,000 worth of science equipment to local classrooms.

“Science Week’s goal has always been to educate the teachers and let students know that science can be fun,” said president Ron Bargiel. “For Pittcon, it’s about giving students another opportunity in a blossoming field. We embrace science and want to continue to provide that opportunity to them.

“Our contribution to the community is our way of making sure that science is here to stay, and we want to do everything that we can to make sure that happens. Science Week is just one of many aspects of Pittcon, but the thought of us helping to create future scientists, teachers, botanists, doctors, and engineers is truly rewarding.”