Lincoln Laboratory has "summer school" for teachers

Teacher internships inspire students

Although teachers usually use their summer to relax, recharge, and prepare for the next school year, last summer was anything but relaxing for two area high school teachers participating in an internship program at Lincoln Laboratory. However they did recharge their interest in science, math, and technology, and were inspired to prepare students not only for the coming school year, but for the next ten years, hoping to motivate them to enter educational and career fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Photo of Valerie WashburnNatick High School teacher Valerie Washburn brought her students to Lincoln Laboratory's Air Traffic Management Lab, where she worked last summer.

The Leadership Initiatives For Teaching and Technology (LIFT2) Program sponsors teachers to work in a technology center during the summer in an effort to excite students about STEM careers. LIFT2's ultimate goal is increasing the number of graduates with STEM degrees in order to ensure a skilled workforce for Massachusetts' technology industries of the future. The teachers return to school armed with an appreciation of how to best equip the students to enter STEM careers and with fresh stories to inspire their students. The Laboratory's LIFT2 Program, coordinated by Roger Sudbury and Jerry Baum, falls under the strategic directions framework to expand the Laboratory's educational outreach. Lincoln Laboratory has participated in the LIFT2 Program for four years, and is currently placing LIFT2 Program teachers in relevant Laboratory positions for this summer.

Jim Stanton, Technology Initiative Director of the Metro South/West Regional Employment Board, which sponsors the LIFT2 Program, said, "The economy of the future is knowledge-/innovation-based and relies on interdependence between education and the workforce." Only 17% of Massachusetts high school seniors plan on choosing STEM majors. Stanton said, "This percentage is too small to address the predicted job vacancy rate when baby boomers enter retirement, and it is far too small to maintain our place in the global economy."

"The key to increasing the technology workforce," maintains Stanton, "is motivating teachers to get students excited about STEM by incorporating 21st-century skills and real-world problems into the courses they teach." One such motivated teacher is Margery Waldron, a math and computer science teacher at Newton South High School, interning with Lincoln Laboratory's Web Services. "I learned to facilitate more than teach," said Waldron, who used her internship knowledge to set up an educational website and help blog for her students. "Now I can interact with students in their comfort zone and inspire them through technological means."

Photo of Natick High School studentsDuring their tour of Lincoln Laboratory, Washburn's class listened to Jim Eggert describe the work performed in the Air Traffic Management Lab.

Valerie Washburn, a math teacher at Natick High School, helped with the Runway Status Lights project as she worked with the Surveillance Systems Group. She also learned the importance of STEM skills in the coming years. Washburn said, "I want to give my students the best possible preparation for 21st-century careers."

Washburn was tasked to add altitude data to current aircraft approach models and run theoretical scenarios based on real landing data. Now she can provide math examples using aircraft and landing patterns, which may be more relatable for the students. "The more I can make math fun for my students, the more I fulfill my goals and those of the LIFT2 Program." Washburn also brought her geometry class on a field trip to Lincoln Laboratory to see the high-tech work that scientists and mathematicians perform in the real world.

A geometry class taking a field trip?  Now that’s inspired.

Updated June 2009


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