ORNL: ORNL partners on science kits for STEM schools

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Center of Science and Industry and the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network have partnered to deliver hundreds of free science kits called Learning Lunchboxes to STEM-designated schools in East Tennessee. The program, named the Tennessee Distance Learning Initiative, provides engaging, hands-on activities aligned with Next Generation Science Standards.

ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia and Associate Laboratory Director Stan Wullschleger visited classrooms at Midway Elementary School in Kingston, Tennessee, on Friday as teachers led students through an activity from the energy-themed box. Frederic Bertley, president and CEO of COSI, and Stephen White, COSI vice president of external affairs, strategic initiatives and business development, also attended.

“Supporting the next generation of STEM talent means reaching students who may lack access to digital resources,” said Zacharia. “This innovative partnership demonstrates our commitment to engage and inspire our community’s youth in science and engineering fields.”

The kits contain directions and materials for five activities that explore energy sources, such as building a solar oven or a wind-powered vehicle. An ORNL-themed activity explains and demonstrates how supercomputers work through the power of parallel processing.

“We’re on a mission to save the planet, and STEM skills are key to getting this done,” said AnneMarie Horowitz, director of DOE’s STEM Rising. “This type of public/private partnership demonstrates how we can come together to serve students and families. The U.S. Department of Energy thanks COSI and Oak Ridge National Lab for working collaboratively to showcase the importance of STEM.”

In addition to Midway Elementary, this initial round of Learning Lunchboxes also will be delivered to Oliver Springs High School, Midway Middle School and Elk Valley STEM School.

COSI, a science learning center based in Columbus, Ohio, has distributed more than 23,000 Learning Lunchbox kits to students and families across Ohio prior to this week’s launch in Tennessee.

“This pandemic has amplified an educational disparity in our communities. It is great to have government, for-profit and nonprofit institutions alike working better together to help ameliorate educational outcomes for our classrooms and communities,” said Bertley.

DOE’s STEM Rising initiative inspires, educates and sparks lifelong success in STEM by sharing resources and events from the national labs, the National Nuclear Security Administration and DOE program offices.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.