Hampton – About 45 people joined the celebration Tuesday as EASTCONN’s Mobile STEM Laboratory made its official debut during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at EASTCONN’s Administrative Offices and Conference Center in Hampton.
The 40-foot-long laboratory-on-wheels was carefully parked next to the facility, where visitors gathered to celebrate with EASTCONN staff.
EASTCONN Executive Director Paula M. Colen welcomed the group, who braved cold, windy temperatures for the ribbon-cutting.
“We are thrilled that we can make this wonderful resource available to the community at large,” Colen said. “STEM careers are really part of our future and our workforce, particularly here in northeastern Connecticut.”
State Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-47th District, who attended the ribbon-cutting, said that STEM learning was particularly important in today’s world, and that the new STEM Laboratory can contribute to students’ success.
“We all know that STEM really is the future,” Dubitsky said, “and teaching our kids to engage in the sciences and manufacturing – and the learning that comes from those disciplines – is really critical.” STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Following the ribbon-cutting, EASTCONN science teacher Stacey Watson, who is the Mobile STEM Laboratory coordinator, conducted tours. Several of EASTCONN’s Quinebaug Middle College magnet high school students were stationed inside, and demonstrated different tools and STEM Lab science curricula, as tour groups moved through. Of particular interest to some visitors was the electron microscope, the sophisticated science equipment and the surprisingly spacious feel of the interior.
Three-and-a-half years ago, a $12-million Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP) made it possible for EASTCONN and one of its magnet high schools, Quinebaug Middle College (QMC), to envision and build a mobile STEM laboratory that would serve not only QMC students, but preK-12 students and schools across the region.
EASTCONN’s well-equipped laboratory-on-wheels was intended to travel to schools and other, less traditional sites like vernal pools, forests and fields, to increase student engagement with the sciences and improve access to hands-on STEM learning. The laboratory was also intended to enable students at smaller schools with fewer resources to conduct sophisticated experiments.
“And now it’s a reality,” said Toni Ryan, Ed.D., EASTCONN’s K-12 Student Services Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and Accreditation.
The STEM Lab has an on-board generator that provides light and power, as well as air-conditioning and heat. There are also work stations for up to 20 students, as well as an electron microscope, compound microscopes, Vernier probes, interior and exterior flat-screen TV monitors, a sophisticated weather observation station, iPads for data collection and analysis, and basic science lab equipment. The laboratory is a spacious 20 feet wide, and is pulled by a specially equipped truck.
EASTCONN has developed a special series of customizable curricula for the Laboratory, which are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
“What’s also good for the region’s science teachers is that as a result of Stacey’s expertise and her connection with the STEM Lab, EASTCONN has become a rich resource for professional learning in NGSS,” said Ryan. “Stacey has already begun offering NGSS professional learning to area teachers. Some NGSS training is taking place on the Lab itself. That’s fun for everyone involved.”
To learn more about EASTCONN’s Mobile STEM Laboratory, and how to schedule a school visit, or a teacher training, contact Stacey Watson at 860-455-1508, or at email@example.com. Visit www.eastconn.org/stemonthemove. EASTCONN is a public, non-profit, Regional Educational Service Center that has been serving the region’s education needs since 1980.