(WCPSS Educators & NC State ExternTrip Host J.T. Ascencio-Ibanez, PhD)
Published Author Category Educator ExternTrips, STEM RTP

Spring of 2019 didn’t just bring pollen storms!  The STEM in the Park  Educator ExternTrips kicked off in March with STEM immersion experiences for Wake County Public School System, immediately followed by Durham Public Schools in April.

NC State ExternTrip

Educator ExternTrips show K-12 educators how STEM is utilized every day in the Triangle through half-day immersion field trips to a STEM organization (org).  Each ExternTrip varies from org. to org. but usually includes a tour of the facility, discussions with employees, and a group activity. 

STEM organizations that hosted 24 Wake County educators in March were the EPA, Credit Suisse, and our first ever university host: NC State! Our host at the university was Dr. Trino Ascencio-Ibanez, Teaching Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Undergraduate Research for Molecular and Structural Biochemistry, who explained to educators how his passion for biochemistry is driven by a desire to solve problems that are useful to the world – including personal ones. Seeing the enthusiasm of the educators as Dr. Trino provided a tour of his lab and examples of how inexpensive science projects could be conducted in their classrooms was an invaluable experience, and makes us proud of the connections we facilitate here at STEM in the Park. 

EPA ExternTrip

“Both of the ones I did were great! EPA was awesome and so was Credit Suisse. Very different styles and formats both I enjoyed both and learned so much!” – Heritage Middle School Teacher

“I found the format very valuable as we were able to engage closely with various employees. The project management activity was super helpful to show us how to incorporate these skills into a classroom lesson.” – Wake STEM Early College High School Teacher

“Trino was awesome. So endearing and intelligent. I felt blown away by the deep knowledge he shared with such passion! Very well organized. I loved the time to have a panel with students also!” – Exploris Middle School Teacher

C.T. Wilson ExternTrip

16 Durham County educators went to  Q Squared | EA Genomics, the EPA, Cree, C.T. Wilson Construction, or RTI. At RTI, they had the opportunity to view several different labs during the campus tour and interact with virtual reality devices, light bulb efficiency research, and military gear testing! Afterward, a panel of RTI employees explained how diverse all of their backgrounds were, and how they came to be employed with the company. These types of conversations are aimed toward enabling educators to go back to their classrooms with real-life stories and experiences that help guide students toward the rich and fulfilling life of STEM. 

RTI ExternTrip

“I attended the RTI and EPA Extern Trips. I found both to be engaging and informative. I particularly liked the opportunity to engage with the work the researchers are doing and to ask critical questions. Although we covered a lot of information in the time period, I wish that we could have more time allotted!” – The School for Creative Studies Teacher

“This was an amazing chance to experience careers outside of education and to learn about the different activities and research that take place in Research Triangle Park at RTI. I especially enjoyed experiencing the virtual and mixed reality activities.” – Southwest Elementary School Teacher

“I was very pleased with both ExternTrips, very insightful, and good to know that these companies exist right here in Durham!” – Brogden Middle School Teacher

Of the educators that provided end-of-year feedback, 78% said that they had been or intended to be in contact with the organization they visited to arrange for further engagement, and 89% responded that they plan to incorporate what they learned on their trip into their lesson plan for the next school year. On average, surveys showed that approximately 70 students were impacted per educator. 

As we all know, teachers  serve as leaders in helping prepare students for the careers of the future. To that end, we aim to help expose teachers to the STEM innovations of today and tomorrow! If you would like to host or participate in future Educator ExternTrips, please email stem@rtp.org with the subject line Educator ExternTrips!