ASU, Discovery Place partner to enhance education

Article Published: Jul. 7, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Appalachian State University and Discovery Place in Charlotte are partnering to excite school-age children and others about science, technology, engineering and math.

Known as STEM, these academic areas are critical to addressing the state's need for a professional workforce skilled in these areas.

Dr. Robert Corbin, vice president of learning experiences at Discovery Place, said the partnership meshes with the science museum's goal of providing "wonder-filled" experiences to its visitors.

"The work being done by professors at Appalachian is 100 percent aligned with our mission," Corbin said. "Discovery Place is all about wonder, and we know wonder is key to changing students' attitudes about STEM education. If we are serious about raising the level of students' achievement in science and math, a key step is providing opportunities to engage the public in research such as that being conducted by professors at Appalachian."

One of the activities at Discovery Place this summer will use team activities and museum scavenger hunts to make learning math and algebra fun.

In July, Dr. Anita Kitchens from Appalachian's Department of Mathematical Sciences will take her popular Math Camp on the road to Discovery Place. The program is supported by funds from the N.C. Space Grant Consortium and Appalachian's College of Arts and Sciences.

"When I told Dr. Kitchens of the limited opportunities for summer enrichment programs for many inner-city students, she was excited to bring her camp to the science museum," Corbin said. "The camp will provide opportunities for students to be successful in gateway math and algebra courses." As part of the camp, Discovery Place is providing the students access to all exhibits.

With support from Charlotte Empowerment Zone, a program for inner-city youth, 60 students have been invited to attend the evening camp free of charge July 25-28. The camp will help the students gain confidence in tackling math and algebra and in themselves. "We do a lot of math problems, but the message of Math Camp is that you can be anything you want to be if you are willing to do the work," Kitchens said.

Kitchens wants to open the camp to more students in the Charlotte area in subsequent years. "The ultimate goal is to have Math Camp for hundreds of students with teachers from the local school systems serving as camp faculty or coaches," she said.

Dr. Brett Taubman from the Department of Chemistry and Dr. Jim Sherman from the Department of Physics and Astronomy will be profiled through Discovery Place's "Buzz Station: Scientist on the Spot," beginning in July and continuing through Labor Day.

An interactive display will include a profile of the professors and allow visitors at the museum to submit questions to them via e-mail about their climate and weather research. Their responses will be displayed later on a kiosk monitor at Discovery Place and also at "The team at Appalachian has been extraordinary in their willingness to share the cutting-edge work they are doing," Corbin said.

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