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Optical Design & Engineering

Microscopy curriculum stimulates STEM excitement

Success stories from teachers show that STEM curriculum using the scanning electron microscope excites their students and improves academic performance.

3 December 2014, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.2201412.01

Scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Food and Drug Administration's Forensic Chemistry Center, and the University of Maryland have teamed with Hitachi High Technologies, USA, to jointly develop and sponsor the educational workshops, "Microscopy for STEM Educators" at the SPIE Scanning Microscopies conferences over the last three years. STEM educators were invited to present their experiences regarding incorporating desktop scanning electron microscopes (SEM) into their curriculum.

They presented numerous success stories depicting how STEM curriculum has excited their students and resulted in significantly improved academic performance. In one example, according to David Menshew, STEM teacher in the Forensics Biotechnology Program at Enochs High School (Modesto, CA), "use of a tabletop scanning electron microscope has been a significantly beneficial addition to the curriculum and especially to the students' college applications," Menshew wrote.

"A high degree of engagement is evident across the student population, including the historically underserved. Students have been able to take the lead in their own investigations, and have used the SEM to connect core science topics to current issues in today's media. In addition, students in this program, according to published California State Testing and Reporting scores, tested well above their peers."

A hands-on laboratory was included in all the workshops, which included a session with a commercial tabletop scanning electron microscope. Experts were also available to discuss instrument theory, operation, applications and sample preparation.

These workshops have been held over the past three years. They began at the Defense Security and Sensing Symposium in Baltimore and continued more recently at the SPIE Scanning Microscopies Conference co-located with SPIE Photomask Technology in Monterey, California, in September 2014. The STEM Workshop will take place again in Monterey in 2015.

The following papers describing student experiences with the SEM are freely available from the SPIE Digital Library:

Introduction to special session on microscopy for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Educators
M. T. Postek, M. Satterfield, B. Damazo, and R. Gordon

Integrating research and advanced microscopy into the high school curriculum
C. Queenan, A. Calabro, D. Becker

HTA educational outreach program and change the equation participation
R. Gordon

Bringing students to the mountain: developing partnerships to introduce students to cutting-edge research
A. Gillian-Daniel, R. Gordon, B. Taylor, J. McCarthy

Using the Hitachi TM 3000 in a middle school classroom
M. E. Wolfinger

Implementing STEM technology in a Title One middle school classroom
C. Holcomb

Integrating independent research into science curricula to foster STEM leadership
C. Queenan, A. Calabro, D. Becker

Teaching K-12 teachers and students about nanoscale science through microscopy
N. Healy

Using the Hitachi SEM to engage learners and promote next-generation science standards inquiry
D. E. Menshew

Integrating electron microscopy into nanoscience and materials engineering programs
R Cormia, M Oye, L Vencill, A Nguyen, D Skiver, M Shi; Y Torres

Project NANO (nanoscience and nanotechnology outreach): a STEM training program that brings SEM's and stereoscopes into high-school and middle-school classrooms
S. L. Cady ; M. Blok ; K. Grosse ; J. Wells