High School Teachers Learn That It’s a Materials World at ASM Camp

It didn’t fall in shovelable amounts and was green instead of white, but the cups of “instant snow” that were passed around to a group of Chicago-area high school science teachers in IIT’s Engineering 1 building made as strong an impression as a summertime blizzard. The demonstration of the powdery hydrophilic sodium polyacrylate polymer combined with varying amounts of water (some=fluffy clusters; lots=slush) was just one of many held as part of the ASM Materials Camp®–Teachers the week of July 8–12 on IIT Main Campus.

ASM Materials Camp 2013 instructors and participants

“MMAE faculty, staff and students have been happy to see ASM Materials Camp–Teachers learning about our field and how to incorporate it into science education at the K-12 level,” says Keith Bowman, Duchossois Leadership Professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering (MMAE), which hosted the event. “Materials science and engineering is a field that explores the intersection between the physics and chemistry historically taught at the high-school level and elements of engineering design that are increasingly being added to K-12 science standards.”

Three master teachers—Bernoli Baello (Northridge Preparatory School in Niles, Ill.), Caryn Jackson (Tolles Career & Technical Center in Plain City, Ohio) and Cynthia Hummel (Thomas Worthington High School in Columbus, Ohio)—who continue to make science come alive for their students led the Camp, which was offered by the ASM Materials Education Foundation and covered materials ranging from solids and metals to glass and composites. The group even visited a steel mill.

“I wanted to participate in this program because it’s so hands-on,” explains Jackson, a Camp alumna. “Every day I went home with so many ideas and new knowledge. When I started trying activities I learned with my students, they just loved them, and were making the connections and recognizing all of the things we were talking about in class.”

ASM Master Teacher Cynthia Hummel demonstrates water gel crystals using a shell game.

Biology and chemistry teacher Catherine Duncan, who has taught at Zion-Benton Township High School for the past decade, was one of nearly 25 participants in the Camp. She said if the entire week could be summed up in one word, it would be “Wow!” and notes that her own experiences in the Camp labs helped her to look at all outcomes as teachable moments.

“It became a chance for me to look at what happened, what we could learn from it, and what we could do differently the next time,” says Duncan.

Bowman, who served as Camp host—”along with great support from the local ASM chapter”—says the enthusiasm of the master teachers as well as teacher participants was palpable.

“They all have worked incredibly hard this week,” he says, “but throughout, have shown smiles of accomplishment that we hope will be carried over to their students in years to come.”