Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Sarah Wright ()
Communications and External Relations


UT Battelle brings students closer to science in four counties

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Oct. 1, 2008 — OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Oct 1, 2008 -- Students in Morgan, Roane, Scott and Sevier counties are getting new lab equipment for their science classrooms, thanks to a $47,500 gift from UT-Battelle.

The funds in support of math and science education were divided among the schools by the Oak Ridge National Lab contractor after reviewing applications from area high school principals and science teachers.

Kristi McCord, a chemistry and geology teacher at Seymour High School, wrote that her lab space has only one sink for every 12 students, forcing them to stand in line waiting for water instead of getting their experiments done in smaller lab groups.

"Motivation for understanding scientific concepts starts with the love of participation in lab experiments," said McCord. Interest in scientific subjects such as chemistry and geology can lead to career opportunities for the students, she said.

Scott County's high school, built in 1971, has four science labs, only one of which was functional. The labs were in major need of repair and upgrades before teachers could conduct routine lab classes. The $10,000 grant was used to repair safety equipment, like an eyewash station and an emergency shower, and to add electrical access to the lab benches.

"This grant will definitely help us rebuild an enthusiasm for science among our students," school principal Bill Hall stated in the application for funds.

Roane County also echoed the need for equipment to enable students to participate in smaller groups.

"A few of the students do the experiment and learn the concept while others can only watch, often losing interest," said Roane County physics instructor Cindy Holmes.

Oliver Springs High School chemistry teacher Rhonda Kodman said her students "respond very well to hands-on applications and expanding and replacing [the] laboratory equipment would greatly benefit them." On her list of equipment to buy using the funds is a bell jar so that she can demonstrate gas laws to her students.

"[The demonstration] is not only educational but enjoyable for students," said Kodman.

One of the schools, Morgan County Career and Technical Center, used the funds to establish chemistry and physics classes. A new science teacher at the school, Arnold "Rocky" Warren, who also received a signing bonus as part of a UT-Battelle-funded program to recruit math and science teachers to rural East Tennessee schools, wrote that since chemistry and physics had never been offered at the school, "there are few materials here suitable for effective teaching."

The funds were awarded as part of UT-Battelle's commitment to support math and science education.

"From the beginning UT-Battelle has realized the importance of support for science education to maintain a world-class national lab," said ORNL Director Thom Mason.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.