Picture a school science lab. What do you see? Maybe a bunch of kids dissecting a frog or mixing chemicals, the same things they’ve done for generations. In Carlsbad, however, science labs have entered the 21st century: students design windmills, learn about magnetic fields, make pendulums, and create circuit boards.
These hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities encourage students to explore, investigate and connect their learning to the real world. They’re made possible through a partnership between the Carlsbad Educational Foundation and San Diego Gas & Electric’s Inspiring Future Leaders giving initiative in the Carlsbad Unified School District since 2011.
The foundation’s Science Lab Supercharge Project began with a conversation about budgets for science education. At the time, schools were receiving just 50 cents a student for science education funding and supplies. With the CEF’s funding, schools now receive $5 per student — a ten-fold increase in funding to support student learning and innovation.
“Science learning doesn’t happen without science ‘doing,’” says Carlsbad science educator Aaron Sottile. “We need to give teachers the power to explore, and that happens because of our partnership with the foundation and with SDG&E.”
Over the past five years, SDG&E has contributed more than $35,000 to fund programs in Carlsbad schools. It has provided support to both the foundation’s Science Lab Supercharge Project and robotics program.
The educational foundation, which has helped Carlsbad schools for decades, also gains benefits through SDG&E’s Energy Efficiency Partnership Program. The foundation spreads energy-efficiency messages on the organization’s social media while SDG&E provides an additional $2,000 per year to the foundation. That money goes back to Carlsbad schools.
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“Thanks to this funding, we can invest a big chunk of money to allow the teachers to buy supplies,” says Nick Burchfield, the foundation’s director of development.
Through the foundation’s support, the students are able to begin work on exciting new projects immediately, rather than waiting weeks for the approval of supplies through the usual channels.
Thanks to the foundation support, Sottile, a Calavera Hills Middle School teacher, was able to quickly obtain a supply of “Scribble Bots,” machines made out of simple materials that move in an erratic way and leave a unique trace of their path on paper.
“You make it with a DC motor and a battery, and you strap some pens to it, and it starts shaking, kind of like your washing machine when it’s out of balance.” he said. “I thought, ‘This is really cool. I teach physics, and it’s a great demonstration of balance and off balance forces. I can use this in my classroom right now.’”
Sottile first learned of the machines at a conference and was able to get them into the hands of students within four days of ordering them. “Thanks to the Supercharge program,” he says, “we’re able to quickly put experiences in the hands of our students.”