September 20, 2013

‘A world beyond Dalton’

Tech program shows students science is in everything

By Lindsey Derrick Dalton Public Schools

— Science is all around us.

It makes up everything and it’s in everything.

Teachers with the Dalton Public Schools C3 Center wanted their students to get a chance to look deeper into science and learn — not only how it helps us do many things, but also to learn how many jobs are based within the field.

Two summers ago, Westwood Elementary School teacher Martha Thomason attended a National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN) camp at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. NNIN is an education outreach program that provides nanotechnology facilities and resources. NNIN is used in only 14 universities nationwide and Georgia Tech is the only one in the Southeast.

The program features camps for middle and high school grade levels and undergrads. The NNIN also has a clean room on site at Georgia Tech that allows people to conduct research in a room free of everything that may pollute the experiment such as dust and vapors.

Thomason said after she saw what a phenomenal camp it was, she spoke to NNIN Assistant Education Coordinator Joyce Allen about coming to speak with her students at Westwood.

“I heard she reached out to gifted kids,” Thomason said, “and I asked if they could come. We’re fortunate that they could come and work with our kids.”

Both Allen and Education Outreach Assistant Leslie O’Neill made their way to Westwood to speak to the Challenge students before going to the C3 center the next day to speak to system-wide fifth grade Challenge students.

They came to show students all about nanotechnology — the study of materials that are too small for unaided eyes — and how it can be found everywhere.

Second-graders took tools used for building or repairing, seeing and measuring. Third-graders studied solar cell research by trying to melt an ice cube with a pizza box solar oven. Fourth-graders looked at nanoscopic things in nature. Fifth-graders took a look at how particles make up solids, liquids and gases.

Allen, a retired teacher, mentioned how many jobs are waiting in the nanotechnology field.

“There are jobs available for all education levels,” Allen said. “There are people from all different fields. Nanoscience isn’t just chemistry or biology. It’s all sciences.”

Allen and Thomason said it is always good to get kids looking at anything in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) area.

“Science is overlooked right now,” said Thomason. “We want to get more integration with STEM and science. Kids are our future, and we want to get them interested in the world out there and realize that there’s a world beyond Dalton.”