During summer tours, there was a golden opportunity to have math and science teachers see “Why do we need this?” Its the question that students ask all the time in math and science classes. Now those teachers will have some practical answers.
Several hundred teachers visited Charlotte area employers recently. They were given a tour to see science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, skills in action. North Carolina New Schools organized the workplace tours, with an eye toward promoting school innovation and thus increasing the college and career readiness of students. NC New Schools is a Raleigh-based public-private effort.
The recent event was a lead-in to a three-day North Carolina New Schools Summer Institute in Concord. The Summer Institute is expected to attract more than 800 educators, all looking to see what skills in action will look like for the 21st century student. .
The workplaces that were toured offered a diverse set of needs, skills, and expectations. Hosts ranged from the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis and Duke Energy’s McGuire Nuclear Station to Charlotte’s Coca-Cola bottling plant.
At the Coke plant, teachers learned about the physics of machines that can screw on up to 900 bottle caps a minute, the process used to mix 51 flavors of soft drinks and the chemistry involved in creating plastic bottles that hold in the carbon dioxide that gives drinks their fizz.
“Wow. Just wow,” said David Jenkins, a teacher at Lenoir County Early College High School. He had proudly claimed a Sprite can that didn’t have the top crimped on, part of a demonstration on how drinks are canned.
His colleague Sarah Wall was struck by how few workers she saw on assembly lines where everything from mixing flavors to sanitizing tanks is automated. “Where are all the people?” she asked.