NEWS | Aug. 29, 2012

Navy Supports Science Teachers with Summer Training Camp

By Shannon Breland

Eleven local teachers plus one from Arizona completed 2012 Materials Camp teacher training in Hancock County, Miss., in July. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) funded the camp, which was administered by the ASM Foundation and hosted by Hancock County School District at their Career Technical Center.

The five-day teacher-training camp exposed science teachers at all grade levels to new ways of teaching fundamental science topics with novel hands-on demonstrations and experiments.

ONR Director of Research Dr. Michael Kassner attended the closing ceremony and spoke to the teachers about the important job they have in keeping students engaged in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Our programs in the middle schools tend to involve hydrodynamics and aerodynamics, which are very Navy relevant things, said Kassner. We know that if there is a loss of interest in STEM at the middle-school level we may not get those kids back.

The Naval Research Laboratory at Stennis Space Center, Miss., (NRL-SSC) supported the training locally on behalf of ONR, providing lunchtime presenters from NRL-SSC each day. NRL-SSC scientists spoke to campers about their personal backgrounds and specific research focus area.

Having NRL-SSC scientists who live and work in this community interact with local teachers emphasizes the important role of STEM professionals in their communities, said Joe Calantoni, a research physicist and with the Naval Research Laboratory who also serves as the ONR regional STEM coordinator.

ONR and NRL are actively engaging with south Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana school districts to elevate STEM aptitude in a region where as many as 90% of students in some school districts qualify for free or reduced-lunch. In addition to economic diversity, the Mississippi and Louisiana schools include a racially diverse population, as well as an all-girls school.

Thirty-percent of high school graduates are white males; however, 70% of bachelor degrees in engineering are awarded to white males, said Kassner. We can't afford to have large segments of our population disengaged in the sciences.

Kassner said the Navy expects to hire thousands of scientists and engineers to fill positions left by the Navy's aging workforce.

We expect half of our engineers will be retiring in the next 10 years, said Kassner.

The Navy expects STEM outreach efforts like the Materials Camp teacher training to help encourage an energetic diverse population of future Navy scientists and engineers.