Three Hyattsville teachers won their school new science lab equipment through a national competition that assists schools in funding laboratory makeovers.
Thom Jensen, Justin Leonard and Edralin Pagarigan, science teachers at Nicholas Orem Middle School, are among the 18 regional winners. Additionally, they are competing for a $20,000 lab makeover through the Shell Science Lab Challenge for middle and high school science teachers.
The National Science Teachers Association sponsors the challenge and prizes that also include registration to the association’s national conference from April 11 to April 14 in San Antonio, Texas.
As regional champions, Nicholas Orem will receive $1,000 in donated lab equipment from VWR International in Radnor, Pa., $300 for books, $1,000 toward additional equipment, one-year association memberships for two teachers and paid registration for two teachers to any two science education conferences.
The Hyattsville science teachers responded to the competition’s challenge to design a lab exercise using the least amount of resources by submitting a plan that analyzed motion through the use of a remote-controlled car, timers and a meter stick, Pagarigan said.
Leonard said the school will perform an inventory at the end of the year to determine what equipment it needs most.
“We don’t have a lot of current lab equipment,” said Leonard, adding that students often deal with equipment that cannot handle science experiments more advanced than home experiments.
Seventh-grader Abigail Boateng said dissecting a chicken with dull lab knives interfered with the accuracy of her results.
“The microscopes don’t work sometimes and we have to share materials like beakers since so many are broken,” said Sindy Miranda, an eighth-grader. “New equipment would improve our education so everyone would have a chance to see stuff.”
Pagarigan said students are often put into larger groups than teachers prefer to accommodate due to the school’s lack of adequate materials.
Nicholas Orem has 721 students and eight science teachers, according to the school’s website.
Leonard added that the school’s submission emphasized that Nicholas Orem has a 99 percent minority student population, which could benefit from improved science teaching since the school is located near federal agencies such as NASA in Greenbelt and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.
“We didn’t expect to win [regional] since we were grouped in with Washington, D.C. We were thinking someone in D.C. would get it,” he said.
The original round included 144 schools, said Eric Crossley, the association’s director of science education competitions.
Crossley said the competition valued submissions that could “stretch the dollar beyond belief.”
National winners will be announced in the next two weeks, Crossley said.