Scientist and teacher bring STEM to classroom

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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Dani Bodeker, CLS, IP assists a Junior High School student to explore a human cell under the microscope.

Photo courtesy of Miriam Campan

Collaboration between a junior high science teacher and a clinical laboratory scientist at Central Montana Medical Center is bringing learning to life through a microscope. 

Lewistown Junior High science teacher Brett Shelagowski and Dani Bodeker a microbiologist, met during a parent teacher conference, and decided to bring a real time application of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to the classroom.   

According to the U.S. Department of Education website, STEM was created to not only engage students in the sciences, but provide youth with the ability to problem solve, collect data, and evaluate that data to make sense of the information. Research available through the Montana Office of Public Instruction website states that STEM offers career opportunities where STEM focused graduates can earn on average, 26 percent more in salary than non-STEM workers. 

Shelagowski said, “STEM, however, is not our sole focus. Engaging students is.” 

During the parent teacher conference Bodeker’s passion for science became something she wanted to share.  She wanted to empower her daughter and other girls by demonstrating, “a woman is doing a job in science.”

She further demonstrates this passion through volunteering in Shelagowski’s science classroom during her days off.

“We began with exploring life in pond water,” Shelagowski said. “The current assignment requires students to view various human cells and draw the shapes of these cells that represent different functions.” While students are working, Bodeker navigates the classroom, and is available to provide relatable answers that satisfy the student’s curiosity. 

The students in Shelagowski’s class, with the assistance of Bodeker, are engaged. “Can I come in at lunch and do this?” asked one student. 

“I have students that want to come in after school to work on their projects,” Shelagowski said.

 The 12 new microscopes enable students to work collaboratively in groups of two to three students. “We were able to use curriculum money to buy up-to-date microscopes that replaced our older 1970 models,” Shelagowski said. “These assignments prepare students for STEM careers and for the rigorous curriculum of high school science,” he added. 

This focus was further emphasized by Bodeker who said, “I think it is so important for kids to like science.  Most kids believe that science will only lead to a career in education or to become a doctor.” 

Bodeker confirms the collaboration between a microbiologist and a junior high school teacher encourages students to work collaboratively and reflect upon future careers in the math and sciences.