4 Quality Education (11)
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Knox County mayor honors women leaders in STEAM all month
KNOXVILLE — Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs is observing Women’s History Month throughout March by sharing videos each Wednesday highlighting time spent in different Knox County Schools’ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) classrooms taught by female teachers.
The March 15 video features a visit with South Doyle High School STEM/Computer Science and 2022 KCS Secondary Teacher of the Year Katie DeVinney who was teaching a class on the principles of advanced manufacturing and practical design.
“I hope out of courses like this, that young women are able to see the opportunities available in sectors of the economy like advanced manufacturing and hopefully pursue those,” Jacobs said in a press release.
DeVinney is a 10-year educator who began her career as a foreign language instructor but was inspired by her husband who started the Robotics program at South Doyle High School, to switch paths.
“I just love it. It’s so much fun to see the excitement in kids when they get to take something that they designed on this computer and then hold it in the real world. It’s the coolest process I have ever seen so that’s kind of why I do it.” DeVinney said.
Mayor Jacobs said celebrating women in STEAM is important for young girls because it shows them that women can succeed in technical fields — industry typically driven by men.
The mayor has already shared his visit with Hardin Valley Elementary STEM Educators Jessica Everitt and Jana Yra and his visit with West Valley Middle science teacher Bethany Saunders.
Later this month, he will share visits with Gibbs Middle School Art Teacher Dorothy Verbick and STEM Teacher Lauren Downs; as well as Karns Middle School Math Teacher Rebecca Layton.
— Knox County Mayors Office
Orange STEM: UT links East Tennessee students with Science, Technical, Engineering and Math studiesWritten by JJ Stambaugh
The TN Lunabotics, science and sustainability get together at BOSS event
KNOXVILLE — What do environmental, social and economic sustainability have in common?
There are numerous ways to answer that question, but for those who pay close attention to education or economics it’s an accepted fact that the future belongs to societies that invest heavily in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
That’s why educators at all levels are pushing students towards those subjects at every opportunity, as was evidenced Jan. 21 at Big Orange STEM Saturday (BOSS) at the University of Tennessee.
About 150 high school students picked from communities across East Tennessee spent much of their Saturday at John C. Hodges Library, getting a first-hand taste of what awaits them should they choose to pursue careers in STEM through the UT system.
UT Arboretum event reminds us to love and care for the butterflies among us
OAK RIDGE — With an orange flutter, a cluster of painted lady butterflies took to the sky.
It was a timed release, coming toward the end of the seventh annual University of Tennessee Arboretum’s Butterfly Festival last month.
Earlier, other live painted lady butterflies were available to watch in mesh tents. Visitors got a chance to touch Madagascar hissing cockroaches and look at preserved insect collections with butterflies and other creatures from around the world. Children ran around the event with butterfly face paint, butterfly masks and butterfly wings. But the event was also a chance to buy butterfly-friendly plants and learn about butterflies and their relationships with other species.
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An under-appreciated Black scientist pioneered the modern study of bees and other insectsWritten by Edward D. Melillo
Charles Henry Turner concluded that bees can perceive time and develop new feeding habits in response
This story was originally published by The Conversation. Edward D. Melillo is a professor of history and environmental studies at Amherst College.
On a crisp autumn morning in 1908, an elegantly dressed African American man strode back and forth among the pin oaks, magnolias and silver maples of O’Fallon Park in St. Louis, Missouri. After placing a dozen dishes filled with strawberry jam atop several picnic tables, biologist Charles Henry Turner retreated to a nearby bench, notebook and pencil at the ready.
Following a midmorning break for tea and toast (topped with strawberry jam, of course), Turner returned to his outdoor experiment. At noon and again at dusk, he placed jam-filled dishes on the park tables. As he discovered, honeybees (Apis mellifera) were reliable breakfast, lunch and dinner visitors to the sugary buffet. After a few days, Turner stopped offering jam at midday and sunset, and presented the treats only at dawn. Initially, the bees continued appearing at all three times. Soon, however, they changed their arrival patterns, visiting the picnic tables only in the mornings.
Tennessee Aquarium fellowships bring minorities into the science space
CHATTANOOGA — Never let it be said that all summer jobs are created equal.
Squatting on his heels to dangle the flexible hose of an environmental DNA pump into a briskly flowing North Georgia stream, the last few weeks have been anything but ordinary for Spencer Trimpe. With the pump’s droning motor steadily collecting a sample of water to filter out genetic traces of the stream’s inhabitants, he doesn’t bother holding back a smile.
A lanky junior biology major from Thomas More University, Trimpe is one of two students selected as part of the Tennessee Aquarium’s George Benz Aquatic Ecology Fellowship. Instead of manning a cash register or waiting tables this summer, he’s assisting freshwater scientists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute with a variety of research projects.
In throwback to early naturalist techniques, Big Camera! helps us picture plants under the sunWritten by Ben Pounds
Lessons in early and enduring photo techniques are an organic way to spread the arts and cultivate love of nature
KNOXVILLE — Donna Moore and Anna Lawrence showed people how to take photos with the sun.
The method, demonstrated this spring at Ijams Nature Center, involved putting one or more leaves on photo paper and spraying it with two sprays. One spray contained lemon and water. The other contained water with vinegar.
Children then placed these leaves on wet photo paper in the sun. The sun’s light gives a permanent impression of the leaf on the paper.
New Ijams playground reconnects kids with neighborhood woods, forts and creeks of yore
KNOXVILLE — Ijams Nature Center officially opened a portal into pure childhood beast mode this week.
The Ijams Nature Playscape at Grayson Subaru Preserve is specifically designed for young children to play in a creek, climb hills, dig, build, crawl and engage with nature in an organic, unstructured way. The new space features a large nest, tunnels, log steps and different rooms to play in.
“For generations, many of us had the opportunity to roam and play in the woods, empty lots and fields that surrounded our homes and neighborhoods,” Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker said. “We remember the freedom we had to use our imagination, test ourselves and become a part of the natural landscape, at least until we were called home for dinner.”
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Help give thanks across history to founders of the South Knoxville nature center and celebrate the addition of 3 acres
Cindy Hassil is a writer for Ijams Nature Center.
KNOXVILLE When H.P. and Alice Ijams purchased 20 acres of land along the Tennessee River in 1910, they couldn’t have known their family would still be contributing to the legacy that would become the 318-acre nonprofit Ijams Nature Center more than a century later.
Ijams Nature Center will celebrate the contributions of the Ijams family and dedicate three acres of land recently donated to the nature center by H.P. and Alice’s granddaughter, Martha Kern, at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 28. The public is invited.
Empty halls, full hearts: Farragut students and teachers adapted with aplomb to pandemic challengeWritten by Ivy Zhang
Despite COVID restrictions, Farragut High students still sought their shine
Hellbender Press intern Ivy Zhang is a junior at Farragut High School. She plans a career in journalism and digital media.
KNOXVILLE — For the 2020-2021 school year, Knox County Schools provided two choices for families: virtual learning or in-person schooling. Many students chose to do virtual school and participated in less extracurricular activities.
Students felt isolated. School clubs halted for the entire school year. The disruption caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) affected the whole world, as well as local communities.
Farragut High School, No. 2 in Knox County rankings, is a great example of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected students.
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The days the Earth stood still (Part 2): South Knoxville’s Ijams Nature Center weathered Covid with grit, gifts and gratitude. Naturally.Written by Thomas Fraser
Ijams posted record visitation during pandemic even as resources were challenged
(This is the second in an occasional Hellbender Press series about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the natural world. Here's the first installment about air quality improvements in the Smokies.)
Individuals and organizations can learn a lot from a pandemic.
You up your technology game. You innovate and run harder and get leaner. You realize the importance of face time (the real face time).
You learn the power of allies and those who really love you.
And in the case of Ijams Nature Center in South Knoxville, you learn just how much people need and value the natural world and the outdoors, especially in times of acute stress and uncertainty.
Ijams played host to a record number of visitors in 2020; there was no usual winter slowdown. Parking lots were full virtually every day during the height of the pandemic that claimed the lives of at least 600,000 people in the U.S. That visitation trend has continued at Ijams, with the coronavirus somewhat comfortably in the rear-view mirror.
An estimated 160,000 people visit the popular nature center annually, but there’s no exact count. Officials said the 2020 visitation substantially surpassed that number, and they plan a visitation study because a very “porous border” prevents an accurate count.
“The one great thing that has come out of Covid, is that people have recognized the importance of nature in their lives; they’ve recognized it as a place for solace, a place to get out and be safe and feel comfortable,” said Ijams Nature Center Executive Director Amber Parker.
“The sheer mass number of people coming were new to Ijams, or maybe come once or twice coming multiple times a week,” said Ijams Development Director Cindy Hassil.
“We were so excited to be this refuge for everyone,” Parker added.
The two women spoke on a sunny spring afternoon on the fetching expanse of stone terrace behind the visitors center in the shade of tulip poplars, red buds and dogwoods. Cardinals chirped and early 17-year cicadas throbbed behind a natural green curtain.
The Blount County Library, one of Maryville’s busiest spots, was closed to the public from mid-April to the beginning of July 2020, thanks to the pandemic. Even though the library was closed, people pulled their vehicles into the parking lot to access the library’s high-speed Wi-Fi, according to library director K.C. Williams. Some people even got out of their cars and dragged lawn chairs to the sidewalk in front of the building to access the rare public Wi-Fi.
“We had over 11,000 hits on our Wi-Fi,” while the library was closed, Williams said. It wasn’t the first time that she and her staff realized the vital role they were playing in helping their neighbors access digital resources.
“Our county has 20 percent of the population that’s disenfranchised economically or geographically,” Williams said. “The library is the playing field equalizer.”
Searching for ways to provide more access to the community, she looked at the solar-powered charging picnic tables Maryville College installed on campus a few years ago. The tables, made of recycled plastic, use solar panels to generate and store solar electricity. Manufactured by EnerFusion, the tables cost $12,500 each. The Blount County Friends of the Library secured a grant from the Arconic Foundation for $25,000 to purchase two of them.
The two were installed at the rear of the library and dedicated at a ribbon-cutting Feb. 25. Users will be able to charge devices and access the library’s Wi-Fi any time of the day. The ribbon-cutting also kicked off the larger SkyFi Project, a plan to bring charging tables to accessible locations throughout the community. The Maryville Rotary Club is within $3,000 of meeting its goal to purchase two more tables, which it will install at the Alcoa Duck Pond. Williams said those involved in the project are looking for more locations in Blount County where the tables can be set up with secure Wi-Fi.
“What’s making this work is that it’s a partnership,” Williams said. The project partners are the three library funding bodies (Blount County and the cities of Maryville and Alcoa); the Arconic Foundation (the philanthropical wing of a large community employer); Rotary Club of Maryville; and Blount County Friends of the Library.
Maryville City Councilwoman Sarah Herron was at the ribbon-cutting to celebrate the SkyFi Project.
“Libraries are an important part of something I care deeply about, which is digital equity,” Herron said. She is a digital media specialist and communications professional, and made digital equity and digital literacy part of her candidate platform when she ran for council in 2020. She said that with so many people working remotely, attending virtual classrooms, and using telehealth services, we increasingly require technology, bandwidth, and access to people who can help us navigate tasks online.
“Not everyone has those kinds of resources,” Herron said. She commended director Williams and her staff for “working so hard to close that digital divide,” especially during the pandemic.
Herron predicts that many of the recent changes in how we use technology will persist.
“Even as we try to get back to ‘normal,’ we’ll continue to rely on more technology,” she said. “There is such a need for people to come together to function in a digital world.”