OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Local third-grade students shared their research about animals, climates, and cultures from assigned countries to employees visiting from the DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) last week.
The presentations from the Linden Elementary School students were part of a project-based learning approach used in the Oak Ridge School District’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum.
“One thing that’s been missing was reaching out and involving other people outside the school system to get feedback to students,” said Elementary Curriculum and Technology Integration Coach Michael Carvella, who helps lead STEM in the district’s four elementary schools. “Bringing in employees from the Department of Energy is great for these kids. They are getting real feedback from people in the work world, and people who work in the STEM fields.”
OREM Manager Jay Mullis noted the significant role community involvement plays in OREM’s mission.
“We emphasize its importance and work to identify opportunities where we can reach out and forge new connections,” Mullis said. “STEM provides that perfect fit, where we have something valuable to offer and also have the ability to engage and help equip the next generation of problem solvers.”
Volunteers from OREM benefitted from the exchange, as they interacted with students in one of the nation’s preeminent school districts. Oak Ridge is the first district in Tennessee and only the second in the country to have every elementary, middle, and high school fully STEM-accredited and certified.
For their “Schools around the World” project, the students spent the past several weeks researching, writing persuasively, developing presentations, and practicing public speaking.
“We can tell the impact these teachers are having,” OREM Acting Deputy Manager Dave Adler said. “It’s pretty remarkable to see what these third-graders were able to accomplish, and we were happy to play a role by being an audience and giving them some tips that could help them as they continue their education and move into their careers.”
Carvella noted that in many cases, the jobs the students will have in the future aren't available yet.
“We don’t know what they’ll be asked to do, but we are working to prepare them for whatever they may need,” he said.