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K-12 STEM Education Programs

Inspiring the scientists of tomorrow, today

Colorful and Sweet Chemistry. Project Wet. Virtual Reality in the Classroom.

For teachers, these are just some of the professional development programs ORAU offers at no cost every summer to enhance their knowledge and skills in STEM education. Our hands-on, multi-faceted programs give teachers opportunities to test new techniques and keep up with technological innovations. The goal: to help them motivate and inspire tomorrow’s STEM leaders.

For students, we offer real-life laboratory experiences, hands-on activities and personalized experiences through programs we manage in partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission. 

  • ARC-ORNL Math-Science-Technology Summer Institute gives high school students from throughout Appalachia the opportunity to partner with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on inquiry-based, applied research projects
  • During the ARC/ORAU Summer Science Academy, middle school students collaborate, with guidance from experienced teachers, to tackle and investigate a research question with the goal of arriving at an innovative solution.

The future of STEM is in their hands. Through these programs, we help them get there.

  • Middle School students engaged in STEM activity

    K-12 Student Programs

    ORAU has more than 70 years of experience developing and managing STEM education programs that motivate and inspire tomorrow’s scientists and engineers. Students interested in learning more about STEM careers can participate in several programs that will give one-of-a-kind experiences and access to professional researchers.

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    K-12 Educator Programs

    ORAU provides leading-edge and innovative education for the teachers who will educate the next generation of STEM leaders. STEM teachers from Kindergarten through high school, and others interested in the STEM fields, can choose from a number of professional development opportunities provided by ORAU.

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  • Extreme Classroom Makeover winning class

    Extreme Classroom Makeover

    ORAU launched Extreme Classroom Makeover in 2008 to help improve science, technology, engineering and math education in public schools across East Tennessee. Our annual competition awards deserving STEM teachers with a room full of the latest educational technology—one teacher, one classroom and $25,000 in new technology.

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  • Extreme Teacher Contest winner with prize

    #ExtremeTeacher Contests

    Every month, we give away brand new classroom tools—3D printers, Chromebooks, Math and Movement kits, etc. Winners are selected by random drawing among teachers who liked the monthly contest post and describe in the comments how they would put the giveaway item to use in their classroom.

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    Education Grants

    ORAU directly supports the schools in our own backyard by offering education grants to Anderson County educators. Since 2002, ORAU has funded more than $500,000 in grants to area schools for projects that complement ORAU’s mission of enriching STEM education programs.

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Make a STEMpact in your community

STEMpactKeeping up with the force of continuous technological change is a reality for students and teachers alike. That’s why ORAU has been leading the way in STEM education for more than 70 years.

Your organization can help by sponsoring STEM education programs in your community. All programs offered by ORAU are carefully designed and presented to be appropriate for the age, grade and achievement levels of the participating students. Training for teachers is included in program design. ORAU furnishes the curriculum, instructors and all resource materials. STEM learning experiences can be conducted at a nearby school, community center, place of business or other appropriate venue.

Whether you simply want to sponsor and fund these activities or you want to participate fully in the delivery of them, ORAU can provide your organization with a fully customizable plan to offer and support STEM education programs in your community. 

To learn more about how your organization can make a STEMpact, please contact Rachel Foster at 865.576.0086 or rachel.foster@orau.org.

Extreme Classroom Makeover winning class

Watch the Extreme Classroom Makeover reveal at West View Elementary!

In April, ORAU presented West View Elementary School teacher Patrick Pollock with a $25,000 technology makeover during a surprise classroom announcement. In July, we revisited Mr. Pollock's new technology classroom!

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    STEM Stories

    STEM Stories connects students with scientists through a series of live talks by dynamic speakers and innovators in their fields. Scientists describe the work they do, the journey they took do get to where they are now, and who or what inspired them to pursue science as a career. Students get practical and inspirational advice as well as opportunities to ask lots of questions.

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  • K-12 student in robotics class

    Oak Ridge Robotics Academy

    The Oak Ridge Robotics Academy is a week-long day camp for rising 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students filled with exciting and challenging activities. Working in small teams, students will design, build and program a robot. Students will have an opportunity to tour Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s research facilities and learn from robotics and engineering research scientists.

  • High School students engaged in STEM activity in laboratory

    ARC-ORNL Math-Science-Technology Summer Institute

    The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)/Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) High School Summer Math-Science-Technology Institute is a two-week summer program that provides high school students and teachers interactive opportunities with ORNL scientists. Together, students and teachers work with scientists on projects in science, math and research-related computer technology.

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  • Middle School students engaged in STEM activity

    ARC Middle School Summer Science Academy

    ARC Middle School Summer Science Academy is a week-long, residential, hands-on science academy sponsored by ARC and ORAU. Students participate in hands-on math, science and computer technology activities.

  • Tennessee Science Bowl Contestants

    Tennessee Science Bowl

    Students from across the state compete in the annual Tennessee Science Bowl, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office and other local businesses, including ORAU. The winning team receives a trip to the National Science Bowl® in Washington, D.C.

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  • K-12 teacher in professional development class

    Engineering is Elementary

    The Engineering is Elementary workshop features curricula that have been tested using rigorous, research-based design principles. The EIE website offers a number of free activities teachers can implement in their classrooms, and these activities can be altered to make them grade-appropriate for students. Jason Jacklet from Heritage Middle School says what he learned in this session will give him ideas to apply in his classroom, which will in turn give his students a taste of what professional scientists and engineers do on a daily basis. 

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    Using Virtual Reality in the Classroom

    Keeping pace with the latest technological advancements is an important component of ORAU’s K-12 STEM educator professional development programming. Teachers had the opportunity to explore virtual reality as it applies to the science classroom using a platform called ClassVR. Jill Schwan, a teacher at Grace Christian Academy in Knoxville said she will be able to give her students the freedom to think about how they can apply the technology in their world today and in the future.

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    Project Wet!

    Our Earth's finite but renewable water resources affect the health and well-being of every person on the planet. That means we must protect, conserve and manage the water we have. This fast-paced class was provided by the non-profit Project Wet! Foundation and correlated to the Common Core Standards. Shawne Myers, teacher at River’s Edge Christian Academy, said the hands-on aspect of the class helped her realize the difficulty students have processing the information they receive when sitting behind a desk.

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    Junior Crime Busters

    A crime has been committed and grade 1-5 students are needed to help solve the mystery. Teachers learned or brushed up on teaching their students some of the same techniques used by crime labs to analyze physical evidence collected at crime scenes or taken from suspects.

    “Kids don’t really see how they will use some of these techniques after school,” says Megan Giordano, a teacher at Steekee Elementary in Loudon County, Tenn. “It shows that they can always grow in what they’re learning and they can always use different techniques outside the classroom.”

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    Colorful and Sweet Chemistry

    In “Colorful and Sweet Chemistry,” teachers learned how to use colors to determine what a substance is, determine when that substance has changed, and determine its strength. On the sweet side, the properties of various types of candies were explored, including acidity, buoyancy and more.

    While these classes sound like fun and games, Giordano says they definitely serve a purpose. “[I have] opportunities to learn and grow as a teacher, especially when we don’t always have science or different engineering and technology programs offered through the district because we focus a lot on math and reading.”

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    Google Earth, Maps, Tours

    ORAU held a workshop to help teachers learn how to bring social studies to life for their middle school students through the use of Google Tours, Maps and Earth. The three-day workshop helped teachers understand how to use the technology properly will teachers pass along what they know to their students.The Google Earth, Maps and Tours workshop attracted teachers from as far away as Memphis.

    “Without this opportunity with ORAU we would not be able to effectively reach a wide variety of teachers. One thing ORAU has allowed us to do is reach a very wide audience,” says Brian Smith, Google professional development instructor.

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    Polymers All Around Us/Super Science Connections

    Dr. Al Hazari, a retired University of Tennessee chemistry professor, led “Polymers All Around Us,” a hands-on workshop exploring the types and the physical and chemical properties of serval everyday polymers. In “Super Science Connections” he integrated children's literature, writing, mathematics, art, social studies and health instructions with hands-on science-observing, devising experiments, hypothesizing and drawing conclusions.

Contact us

For more information about K-12 educator professional development, as well as other classroom, student and educator opportunities, please contact Marie Westfall at 865.576.3425 or marie.westfall@orau.org.