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WEST CHESTER — Summer may be in session, but that isn’t stopping four Chester County teachers from learning something new and coming up with ideas for the upcoming 2015-16 school year.
As part of Sartomer’s first Arkema Science Teacher Program, the chemical company invited the four teachers out to its location in West Chester for the two-and-a-half day event.
“(Arkema) has always done it in King of Prussia at corporate,” said Kerry Acker, safety specialist at Sartomer. “This year, they wanted to mix it up a little bit and do it right in-house in the plants themselves and invite the teachers in so they can get a little feel of what we do.”
Sartomer is a division of Arkema and produces products called acrylate and methacrylate monomers for use in other markets.
In other words, they make things that are a component of something else.
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When Sartomer began planning to have the Arkema Science Teacher Program, employees began to reach out to the local schools to find interested teachers.
“The reason for this program is for fourth, fifth and sixth grade,” Acker said. “We’re hoping that we can touch some child who will say, ‘Hey, I want to work at Sartomer or Arkema or I want to be a scientist.’ A lot of kids now want to be businessmen, lawyers or doctors. It’s just to promote science and is a gift to the teachers. That’s what it’s all about.”
Unfortunately, Sartomer didn’t hear back from very many schools, so Acker reached out to teachers in the area he knew.
Jones immediately said yes, along with fellow East Fallowfield fourth grade teacher Alyece Ziegler.
“We can take more (teachers),” said Ken Sweeney, plant manager at Sartomer. “We decided on this number originally because it was our first time for these guys. We wanted to feel it out, but we can take more. If there is a school that’s interested or school that wants to bolster their science curriculum or science department, we’d be glad to help.”
Acker sent all four teachers a list of science kits from a company called Carolina Curriculum and each picked out one.
Starting Monday, the teachers came to the Sartomer plant and were introduced to their chosen kits and got to be like a student again and play with it and develop in their minds how to work it into their curriculums.
“It was like Christmas morning,” Jones said. “We wanted a kit we knew we didn’t have (at East Fallowfield). The kits that we chose are kits that we knew that the children had to have knowledge for the PSSA testing that we didn’t teach.”
Included in the kits are not only some hands-on items, but also have 17 lessons per kit.
“There is a curriculum with each kit, so they start building the curriculum they want to do,” Sweeney said.
Along with putting together their kits, the teachers also got to tour the Sartomer facility.
The entire program, including the kits, were paid for by Arkema and Sartomer.
“Arkema gave us a lot of funding as well, but I was about $3,000 over budget,” Acker said. “Ken said it was no problem.”
Along with supplying the kits, Arkema also donates money to each of the schools to use how they’d like.
“They’re ready to go back into the classroom now,” said Roberta Showell, quality control manager at Sartomer. “They’re going to start within the first few weeks with these projects. The kits come with an online access to get more supplies at a discounted rate. Arkema donates $500 so they can buy stuff. They’re set for probably a couple years.”
Ziegler and Jones both picked kits related to biology to bring to their students.
“We have a lot of the Earth science and a lot of the physical science, but the big thing we were missing in fourth grade was biology — animals and plants,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler chose animal studies where her students will set-up three habitats — one all water for an African dwarf frog, one water and land for a fiddler crab and one all land for a millipede.
Jones went for ecosystems, which had her create an aquarium and terrarium to show the motion of carbon dioxide and oxygen.
Giuliano chose food chemistry to go along with her theme of health in her classroom. The students can test foods for fat, sugar and more to help them learn to eat healthier.
McGaughey chose to supplement her PSSA teaching of motion.
“I figured it’s hands-on, it’s interactive and kids love building with K’NEX,” she said. “Instead of just doing worksheets or videos, I thought this would be a good way to get the kids active, hands-on and actually interacting to understand the vocabulary.”
The teachers were excited about each kit and the fact they can pack it all into their cars to take to the classroom.
Even though it was only the first day of July, each were excited to get school started.
“In reality, science is fun,” Sweeney said. “You have to give the kids an opportunity to play around. You need to play and have fun and then you get some interest in it. If you’re just doing straight up math and equations and you can’t relate to anything, then some people aren’t into that. I’m hoping we can provide some curriculum out there to some of the schools and hopefully grow the next generation of scientists.”