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Posted 4/25/2013

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By Andrew A Kornacki
Buffalo District

There's an old Chinese proverb, "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." This was the idea behind the Buffalo District's "Flash Training" for the teachers of Mullen Elementary School, Tonawanda, NY, on Thursday April 18, 2013.

In support of the Corps' Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative, four Buffalo District team members put together a hands-on teacher training event. The purpose of the training was to minimize the amount of time teachers have to spend researching and experimenting with STEM activities to determine if they would work in their classrooms. By the end of the 1-hour training, about 25 elementary school teachers walked away with the knowledge required to share the experiments with their classrooms of roughly 20 students per class. This means that if each teacher shares an experiment, potentially 500 students will be exposed to the hands-on science activity.

"Flash Training is kind of like speed dating, but with science activities," said Judy Philips, Buffalo District's EEO officer. "Small groups of teachers spend about 10 minutes at each activity, watching a Corp employee demonstrate the activity, learn the theory behind the activity and then rotate to a different table to learn a new activity. The goal is to teach the teachers some great hands-on activities "in a flash" so we are able to utilize their time efficiently."

Each district team member developed a simple science activity which they demonstrated for the teachers. They included: Flower Pressing; Wetlands Demonstration; Making Silly Putty; and What is a Glacier. At each station, teachers received packets containing information on required materials, how to carry out the activity, and Web sites with additional information.

"Teachers responded in a very positive way, often cheering at the end of the demonstration," said Bill Pioli, Buffalo District Safety Officer. "I think they appreciated the visual stimulation that our demonstrations provided, and could easily see how to utilize them in the classroom with their students."

With the United States falling behind globally in STEM fields, it is imperative that professionals think outside the box on how to reach students and how to share their real world knowledge with the next generation. This outreach program was a terrific example of equipping teachers with the tools to positively impact the next generation of young minds in STEM.

Buffalo District elementary school flash training STEM teachers