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22 | HERALDNEWSONLINE.COM | WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2013

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PART 1 OF A 5-PART SERIES

PRODUCED BY CUSTOM MEDIA SOLUTIONS

PARTICIPATING SCHOOL DISTRICTS

THERE’S MORE ONLINE Visit http://suntm.es/Shoot4As for additional coverage of the Shoot For A’s program.

4 school districts are getting energized about math and science

Channahon District 17

Shoot for A’s fuels enthusiasm m in the classroom We examine how a local program is enhancing math and science education

Elementary School District 84 and Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-C — are participating in this year’s Shoot for A’s program. Students at these schools are currently working on science projects that are focused on energy efficiency. The projects will be displayed at a science expo in the spring. Rockdale is participating in the program for the first time. Tammy Ledesma, the only science teacher at Rockdale, couldn’t be more excited about her school’s participation. “After we participated in Exxon Mobil’s Secrets of Science day wherein the engineers came out and conducted a science experiment with our kids in sixth through eighth grades … we were asked to participate in the Shoot For As program this year,” Ledesma said.

BY RHONDA ALEXANDER For Sun-Times Media

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bby Holloway, 13, wants to be an aerospace engineer. “[I’m interested in] designing spacecraft, figuring out how it works, the amount of fuel you have to use and everything that goes into making it lift off, basically,” said Holloway, a Channahon Junior High student and a two-time participant in the local program, Shoot for A’s in Math and Science. Taking that seed of a dream and nurturing it in an academic setting is what the program Shoot for A’s is all about. This program, sponsored by Exxon Mobil, aims to foster enthusiasm in math and science in middle school students. Four local school districts — Channahon School District 17, Minooka Community Consolidated School District 201, Rockdale

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2013 | HERALDNEWSONLINE.COM | 23

How the program works

Members of Rockdale school science club include (from left) Mariah Nunez, Jaiden Coble, Jaycee Jarosz, Stephanie Torres, Nicole Stadler, Juan Vazquez, Valerie Reyes, Joe Lukas, Tommy Seppi and Dr. Bones Jr. (seated). This is the first year Rockdale is participating in Shoot for A’s. | MARY COMPTON ~ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

SAVE THE DATE

Expanding math and science exposure to kids at a young age can have a lasting impact on students’ growth, development and the direction of their professional lives. This is why constructing a productive learning environment for children of middle

www.shootforas.or as.org

Analysis: One Channahon project involves calculations for converting cow manure into methane. | Rhonda Alexander ~ For Sun-Times Media

school age is so essential. Jennifer Leimberer, director of the Learning Science Research Institute at University of Illinois in Chicago, said that middle school is when the foundation of learning happens. “Oftentimes, if kids are going to choose to be in math or science, they are usually inspired in late elementary and middle school years,” Leimberer said. She said setting the foundation in middle school ensures that high school programs will be more meaningful overall and help prepare students for college. This is the fourth year Exxon Mobil’s Shoot For A’s program has raised funds with participating sponsors and given

out grants to Joliet-area middle schools in an effort to encourage and expand interest in math and science. Feeding the natural curiosity in any way — that’s the goal of the Shoot For A’s program according to Tricia Simpson, Exxon Mobil’s Midwest public and government affairs manager in Joliet. “There are things on the teacher’s wish list like 3D microscopes or iPads with different apps for science and math … those things may not be in the regular school budget,” Simpson said. She also said that the needs of the students don’t have to be farfetched or overreaching. The need could be as simple as

The first year Exxon Mobil offered the Shoot for A’s grant, Jeana Pekol was a science teacher in Minooka District 201. Her environmental club received the program’s first grant. She’s seen firsthand how beneficial the program is and how it has furthered the students’ interest in science and math. “Without the program, we wouldn’t have provided so many opportunities for our kids,” said Pekol, who is now principal at Minooka Intermediate School.

Learning can be fun

Channahon student Jessoni Wilkinson, 12, is fascinated by roller coasters. Her group of five is focusing on which kind of roller coaster is more efficient — those

“Without the program, we wouldn’t have provided so many opportunities for our kids.” JEANA PEKOL, Minooka Intermediate School principal covering the costs for buses and admission for a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry … whatever the students need to pique and nurture their desire to increase their science- and mathrelated educational goals.

made with steel or wood. They’re building their hypothesis around the well-known American Eagle and Raging Bull roller coasters at Six Flags in Gurnee; they also plan to build a model roller coaster.

Minooka District 201 Rockdale District 84

Project about produce: Members of the Rockdale School science club, eighth-grader Joe Lukas and sixth-grader Nicole Stadler, begin working on their project titled Fruit and Veggie Project. This is the first year Rockdale School has participated in Shoot For A’s. | MARY COMPTON ~ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

For starters: Channahon Junior High students are in the initial phases of researching their energy efficiency projects. | RHONDA ALEXANDER ~ FOR SUNTIMES MEDIA

At the helm of Channahon’s science club, stands Kirk Lange, the science club teacher who has participated in the Shoot For A’s project for the past four years. Recently, he finalized purchase orders for the equipment that’s going to be needed to build the visual portion of their projects. A biofuel cell is just one of the components for a group that is studying different fuel sources for cars that run off of other forms of fuel. “[These kids] are going to be our future engineers and hopefully even future Exxon Mobil employees,” Lange said.

Troy District 30-C

ON THE WEB To learn more about Shoot for A’s, visit www.shootforas.org. Visit http:// suntm.es/ Shoot4As to see additional photos of students working on their projects. COMING UP NEXT: Watch for the next installment about Shoot For A’s to appear two weeks from today. In it we’ll learn how the students will take their projects from the idea stage to completion.

Sponsored by Exxon Mobil

Saturday, September 7, 2013

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22 | HERALDNEWSONLINE.COM | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6, 2013

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6, 2013 | HERALDNEWSONLINE.COM | 23

PART 2 OF A 5-PART SERIES

PARTICIPATING SCHOOL DISTRICTS

PRODUCED BY CUSTOM MEDIA SOLUTIONS

4 school districts are getting energized about math and science

Shoot for A’s encourages‘lea arning through doing’ Students put their theories to the test

students who are participating in the Shoot For A’s program. The program, sponsored by Exxon Mobil, aims to foster enthusiasm in math and science in middle school students. School districts in Channahon, Minooka, Rockdale and Troy are participating in this year’s program, which culminates with a science expo. Unlike traditional science fairs that are competitive, the Shoot For A’s program has other goals. “This is not a judged competition, it is a display of a project, so the students must do the work in school with their classmates,” said Tricia Simpson, Exxon Mobil’s Midwest public and government affairs manager.

BY RHONDA ALEXANDER For Sun-Times Media

Editor’s note: This second installment about the Shoot for A’s program examines the process students use to complete their science projects, and the valuable lessons they learn along the way.

S

ometimes great ideas come from the most unlikely places. Such was the case for a team of Channahon Junior High students who are working on a science project that focuses on energy efficiency. For them, it all started after one member overheard a conversation in the cafeteria. “Some of the appliances [in the cafeteria] are Energy Star, so it kind of stemmed from that,” said Emma Valentino of Channahon Junior High. Through their research, Valentino’s team hopes to find out if Energy Star appliances really are as efficient as they say and if they save as much money as the companies who push these appliances report. This science project is one of numerous projects being completed by local middle school

1. Brainstorming

All of the students work in teams. They begin by brainstorming. Renae Batsch, sixth grade science teacher at Minooka Intermediate School, is guiding a team of students who researched online, then decided to test which biomass creates the most biogas. “They researched ideas online [related to] energy efficiency,” Batsch said. When the students put their heads together, their ideas are simple, yet brilliant. For example, a team at

Hands-on learning: Minooka Intermediate School science teacher Lauren Birkner (far left) helps students measure insulation. The team of students are testing different forms of insulation for an attic space in the home to determine which is the best insulator. Students working are; Cora Fick, Gina Russell and Sydney McDaniel.

SAVE THE DATE

www.shootforas.or as.org

Minooka Junior High is proposing motion sensor-controlled lights be installed in common school areas to save electric-

“They get to ask open-ended questions … and discover that in science, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer.” Tammy Ledesma, Rockdale Elementary science teacher ity. Another team is studying roller coasters after one student expressed a fascination with them. And yet another team is testing whether insulated pipes affect water temperature.

2. Developing a concept

After the teams agree on a great idea they employ the scientific method. They start out with a problem or question, do research, develop a hypothesis, test it, gather data, form and write a conclusion, then communicate the findings. Troy Middle School science teacher Carol Pieler said that

although students develop concepts by using the scientific method, the real value comes from hands-on learning. “They develop concepts by doing … we want them handson, building and constructing … reinforcing and developing concepts as they are building,” Pieler said. Pieler’s students are studying fruits to find out which food produces the most biogas. The students are conducting experiments using variables (two-liter bottles, water and balloons) and constants. They’ve researched, using mathematical calculations, to find out how biomass is converted to biogas. Tammy Ledesma, Rockdale’s science teacher, adds that applying critical thinking skills gives the students more confidence. “They get to ask open-ended questions … and discover that in science, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer,” Ledesma said.

3. Testing theories

So far, the Channahon Energy Star team has experienced a bit of a surprise with their initial findings. “We’ve discovered that the appliances may be more energy efficient, but not more cost efficient,” Valentino said. They

didn’t expect those results and what’s more, the team has discovered that the savings that are reported don’t kick in for 20 years. Not only is it fun to get to the actual work of conducting the experiments and proving or disproving their hypotheses, the students are applying theories they have only read about

and not be able to apply it,” Portwood said.

4. Communicating findings

When the experiments are finished and the projects are completed, the students will present their findings at an expo. This final step offers a significant, practical learning opportunity.

Channahon District 17 Minooka District 201 Rockdale District 84 Troy District 30-C

ON THE WEB To learn more about Shoot for A’s, visit www. shootforas.org. Visit http:// suntm.es/ Shoot4As to see additional photos of students working on their projects.

COMING UP NEXT

Making introductions: Rockdale school science club member Valerie Reyes begins typing the table of contents page for their project titled “Extracting Energy From Grass.” | PHOTOS BY MARY COMPTON ~ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA in class. That kind of experience is invaluable, said Michael Portwood, principal at Troy Middle School in Plainfield. “I feel like we’re doing our students a great disservice if we give them a lot of theory

“The students get to communicate their findings in a formal setting to professionals, which teaches them a powerful lesson early on about conducting themselves properly in a business setting,” Portwood said.

Watch for the next installment about Shoot For A’s to appear two weeks from today. In it, educators will share how students benefit from the program.

Sponsored by Exxon Mobil

Saturday, September 7, 2013

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24 | HERALDNEWSONLINE.COM | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2013

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2013 | HERALDNEWSONLINE.COM | 25

PART 3 OF A 5-PART SERIES

PARTICIPATING SCHOOL DISTRICTS Channahon District 17 Minooka District 201 Rockdale District 84 Troy District 30-C

THERE’S MORE ONLINE Visit http://suntm.es/Shoot4As for additional coverage of the Shoot For A’s program.

4 school districts are getting energized about math and science

Going beyond the scientific c method sponsored by Exxon Mobil that aims to foster enthusiasm in math and science in middle school students. “We were the first grant given out by Exxon Mobil. We were an environmental club and we wrote the grant for our science classrooms as well,” she said. That was four years ago. Today, four area school districts — Minooka, Channahon, Rockdale and Troy — participate in the program. Tammy Ledesma, Rockdale’s resident science teacher, said the program, which is “studentled and teacher-guided,” teaches students to be independent thinkers.

BY RHONDA ALEXANDER

For Sun-Times Media

Editor’s note: In this third installment about the Shoot for A’s program, teachers share how students benefit from the program.

A

n interest in math and science is sometimes piqued by simply wanting to find an answer to a question. Jeana Pekol, principal at Minooka Intermediate School, says her interest in teaching science came about in much the same way. When Pekol was in school, her science teacher challenged her to find out why something happens and why things work the way they do. Pekol feels like her science teacher’s

DID YOU KNOW?

Live, learn and pass it on: Minooka Intermediate School principal Jeana Pekol was inspired by her science teacher growing up. Now she encourages the students at her own school. | MARY

THE U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR & STATISTICS REPORTS THAT IN MAY 2009, STEM occupations — technical jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — represented about 6 percent of U.S. employment (nearly 8 million jobs). The largest STEM occupations in May 2009 were related to computers. The Bureau projects that biomedical engineers will be one of the 20 fastest growing occupations from 2010-2020.

COMPTON ~ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

challenge and guidance inspired her to think differently and to want to continue to explore the world of science and math. “I had many teachers who took the time to make a difference, inspire and motivate me,” Pekol said. Today, Pekol passes on that enthusiasm through the Shoot for A’s, a program

thinking questions,” Ledesma said. Troy science teacher Carol Pieler agrees. “Students are provided with the time and the place, the equipment and the freedom to construct and explore new ideas.” In addition, Pekol says the program allows the students to work together as a team. Students are motivated to push each other and keep challenging one another. “The [science] club provides the students an opportunity to work with other students that have the same interests as they do, that they may not see in

Air time: From left, Troy Middle School students Bobby Casares, Juan Marin, Spencer Rogina and Chris Spreitzer do a test run on their paper car to see how it moves by the flow of air. | MARY COMPTON ~ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

SAVE THE DATE

“They are learning that in science, there isn’t always a right answer … it’s not like math; in math, three times four is twelve. There’s only one way you can get it; with science, some of these questions are critical

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classes throughout the regular school day,” she said.

Timing, tech are key

Physicist, Russell Betts, Ph.D. and Dean of the College of Sciences and Letters at Illinois Insti-

Tall order: Rockdale science club member Valerie Reyes measures the growth of grass, which has been planted in a variety of soils. | MARY COMPTON ~ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

tute of Technology in Chicago, posed the question: “Why do relatively few of our own homegrown students choose to go into careers in math and science or get higher education in math and science? I think that’s because of what happens very early on.” Jennifer Leimberer, director of teaching integrated math and science project at University of Illinois in Chicago, said it is critical to focus on math and science in middle school. “A lot of the core skills that we’re asking our generation to have are usually learned in middle school. A lot of those core mathematical skills that are applied to our applied sciences such as algebra, ratios and proportions — all of that foundation is laid in our middle school years,” Leimberer said. In addition, the program can help expose young students to new technology. “The [Shoot for A’s] grants

specifically benefitted our school by buying extra lab equipment,” said Michael Portwood, principle at Troy Middle School. Portwood said they have been able to buy some neat pieces of tech, additional laptops and software. Tricia Simpson, Exxon Mobil’s Midwest public and government affairs manager, said students need to get their hands on new technology sooner versus later. “If they want to continue to pursue math and science, they’re going to have an expectation of being comfortable with [certain technologies] as they go forward,” Simpson said. This exposure can help prepare students for a career. “This is the future of where jobs are gonna be,” said Kirk Lange, science teacher for Channahon Junior High. Jose Lopez, 15, a Minooka Community High School student, participated in the Shoot

For A’s program as a student at Minooka Intermediate School. He can attest to its benefits. “I had an opportunity to learn a lot in science and math and how to contribute in using science and math in my community,” Lopez said. Now, not only are math and science his favorite subjects, Lopez has decided on a career in architecture. “I will be using a lot of math and science in architecture … you’re going to have to use geometry

PROJECT UPDATES: Students are conducting experiments, preparing PowerPoint presentations and building models for the upcoming expo in April. At this point, many of the reports on the findings are complete and the excitement among the students continues to build.

ON THE WEB To learn more about Shoot for A’s, visit www.shootforas.org. Visit http://suntm.es/ Shoot4As to see additional photos of students working on their projects. Energy from produce: This close-up shows a group of students from Rockdale School testing how much energy they can extract from an orange as they analyze power from fruits and vegetables. | MARY COMPTON ~ FOR SUNTIMES MEDIA

to lay out a building design and you’re going to use science such as physics to figure out how sturdy the building has to be.”

COMING UP NEXT: In the next installment about Shoot For A’s, we’ll learn about all the fun the students are having. To learn more:Visit www.shootforas.org.

Sponsored by Exxon Mobil

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24 | HERALDNEWSONLINE.COM | WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 2013

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 2013 | HERALDNEWSONLINE.COM | 25

PART 5 OF A 5-PART SERIES

THERE’S MORE ONLINE Visit http://suntm.es/ Shoot4As for additional coverage of the Shoot For A’s program.

4 school districts are getting energized about math and science

Next stop:science expo

19 different teams will be showcasing their projects April 24. One thing’s for sure: everybody who attends the expo — students, parents, teachers and guests — will come together for one united purpose: to celebrate what the students have been working on. Here’s a quick glimpse of what will be on display at the expo:

Students putting final touches on their projects

BY RHONDA ALEXANDER For Sun-Times Media

Out for a spin: Evaluating blade turbines, Troy Middle School student Katie Lindley works on a miniature car for her Shoot For the A’s science experiment. | MARY COMPTON ~ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

T

he expo is coming, the expo is coming! Excitement is building for the students who are participating in The Shoot For A’s Math and Science program, as they will present their science projects April 24 at the Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon. The Shoot For A’s program is sponsored by Exxon Mobil in an effort to support math and science education in the community. Four local school districts are participating in this year’s program: Channahon School District 17, Minooka Community Consolidated School District 201, Rockdale Elementary School District 84 and Troy Community Consolidated School District 30C. The goal of the program is to nurture interest in STEM (Science, Technology,

Making the cut: Minooka Junior High science teacher Megan Heng cuts plastic for a science project on solar power. Looking on are Minooka Junior High eighth-graders Urvisha Patel, Mackenzie Harmon and Reagan Casper. | MARY COMPTON ~ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

SAVE THE DATE

Engineering and Mathematics) subjects at an early age. The expo is the culmination of two months of hard — but fun — work wherein the students have been conducting experiments, testing theories and researching. In some cases, the students have even gone back to the drawing board to begin anew. “The work has been done and it’s their [the students] opportunity to show off what they’ve been working on, what they’ve learned, what theories tested well, what they’ve discarded and what they’ve learned in the process,” said Tricia Simpson, Exxon Mobil’s Midwest public and government affairs manager in Joliet. The theme for this year’s Shoot for A’s program is energy efficiency. The stu-

www.shootforas.or as.org

dents’ projects reflect their interests, curiosities and passions. Students, teachers, parents and administrators are all looking forward to the event. Elected officials and local dignitaries have been invited to attend the event. “The students arrive around 3:30 p.m. and set up their project displays in the main exhibit hall and soon after, the guests begin to arrive,” Simpson said. Students are inspired to do their best for the expo — but not for a prize, as is the tradition in science fairs. These students are pursuing subjects in which they have a genuine interest in solving a problem. And this hasn’t been a solo effort; these students have worked on these projects as teams. Approximately 80 students from

Minooka Intermediate School and Minooka Middle School:

Group 1: Which types of insulation used in U.S. homes is most energy efficient? ■ Group 2: Solar energy generation for the school ■ Group 3: Installation of a wind turbine to gather alternate energy for the school ■ Group 4: Installation of motion sensor controlled ■

lights in common school areas to save electricity ■ Group 5: Will insulated pipes have any effect on the temperature of water? ■ Group 6: Which biomass creates the most biogas? (Using banana peels, orange peels, white bread and wheat bread)

Troy Middle School:

■ Group 1: Antifriction team — antifriction (hovercrafts and maglev technology) devices that can be used with energy efficient transportation. ■ Group 2: Wind team: How do loop and three blade wind turbines generate electricity? ■ Group 3: Solar team: Is solar cell technology an option for energy efficient production of electricity? ■ Group 4: Engine team: Energy efficiency of future engines and

Electricity in the air: Channahon Jr. High seventh-grader Kasey Southard from Channahon works on putting a miniature electric car together for his science project. The project looks at which car would be more energy efficient: electric, diesel or solar? | MARY COMPTON ~ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

vehicles. They investigated thermodynamics and fuel cell technology.

Rockdale Elementary:

■ Group 1: Energy extraction from fruits and vegetables ■ Group 2: Biomass energy extraction from different types of grass (wheat, rye, corn, oats)

PARTICIPATING SCHOOL DISTRICTS Channahon District 17 Minooka District 201 Rockdale District 84 Troy District 30-C

Working hard: Rockdale Elementary School science club member Stephanie Torres works on her science experiment for the Shoot For The A’s program. | MARY COMPTON ~ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA ■ Group 3: Solar and wind power for energy extraction

Channahon Junior High:

Group 1: Bio fuel as an alternative to gasoline ■ Group 2: Trains: Bullet vs. Diesel ■ Group 3: Roller coasters ■ Group 4: Electric vs. solar vs. diesel cars ■ Group 5: Energy star appliances ■ Group 6: Recycling ■

Sponsored by Exxon Mobil

Saturday, September 7, 2013

ON THE WEB To learn more about Shoot for A’s, visit www.shootforas.org. Visit http://suntm.es/ Shoot4As to see additional photos of students working on their projects. COMING UP NEXT: We’ll commemorate the students’ Shoot for A’s achievements in a special section in the Herald-News May 8. TO LEARN MORE: Visit www.shootforas. org.

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Exxon's Shoot For A's  

Exxon commissioned coverage of its 2013 Shoot For A's in Math and Science program from the Joliet Herald. The coverage described how the pro...