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University of California Santa Barbara
Faculty Outreach Grants

Spotlight on FOG

FOG Program Award Supports STEM Outreach at Elementary Schools

In the last year, the Pennathur laboratory used funding from UCSB’s Faculty Outreach Grants (FOG) Program to develop a suite of educational activities focused on important STEM concepts such as the scientific method, basic chemical separations, laboratory safety, and cutting edge nanotechnology. The outreach activities included hands-on experiments within the classroom, follow-up assignments, and tours to UCSB labs.

"We all loved it! It was the perfect extension of our study of mixtures and solutions and a valuable hands-on lesson in chemistry AND thinking about what goes into our food. Thank you!"

- Kellogg 5th Grade Teacher

Professor Sumita Pennathur, along with key personnel Dr. Sam Helmy and Kara Nicol-Rocque, led the activities in over ten local pre-K, 3rd grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade classrooms in the Santa Barbara and Goleta school districts. Pennathur’s outreach program includes three project scenarios: 1) a hands-on math learning technique using food coloring, water, plastic syringes and “solution dilutions” for 3rd graders; 2) a hypothesis-driven chemical chromatography experiment involving household reagents and M&Ms® for 5th graders; and 3) a nanotechnology lecture and hands-on demonstration with 6th graders. Pennathur’s team received so much positive feedback from these hands-on learning activities that they are continuing the project through outreach in local schools and by “packaging” these first two activities into reasonably priced learning boxes that will be available for purchase by schools across the country. Professor Pennathur has just won a second FOG award that will allow the team to generate prototype boxes aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), test the systems with volunteer classrooms both locally and nationally, and finally develop next generation versions that will propel these learning boxes to the status of “self-sustained STEM education tools” by the end of the 2016-2017 school year.