Gummy worms and a $100K grant the focus of Hill Freedman Middle School event

Students at Hill Freedman Middle School spent Tuesday morning learning about science and conducting experiments, one of which had them creating their own gummy worm formations.

The gummy worms were part of an event announcing a $100,000 “Teaching the Science of Curiosity” grant from the FMC Corp., a Philadelphia-based chemical company.

Reaction from educators

The grant will enable more than 100 Philadelphia School District teachers to attend free professional-development workshops, including sessions at the Philadelphia Science Festival from April 18 to 28.

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At the East Germantown school for the morning event, Superintendent William Hite encouraged students to look into careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, and said the grant will bolster educational offerings.

“This grant will provide us with a wide array of science resources that we can use in the classroom,” said Ambra Hook, science teacher at Hill Freedman. “We want to give our students the best learning experiences possible.”

Hands-on learning

FMC scientist Frank Zawacki, a scientist at FMC, demonstrated an array of science experiments for students.

As they created gummy worms, created via chemical process, Zawacki had one key message: “If you’re curious and you have questions about how things work, look for a career in STEM.”

Through the grant, scientists like Zawacki will interact with school-district science teachers about planning and conducting experiments during Summer Science Institute courses. The classes will cover topics in science, technology, engineering and math.

“Students can turn today’s curiosity into tomorrow’s innovation,” said FMC spokeswoman Barbara Del Duke.

Direct impact

Hook said the grant will allow her to pursue new experiments with her students.

“I want to send them home with experiments to do with their families and really get them talking about science,” said Hook. “We will also be doing some neighborhood experiments with Awbury Arboretum this spring.”

She said she’s constantly reminding her students of how STEM relates to real-world experiences.

“Some of them tell me that they want to be a doctor or a musician,” said Hook, “and I tell them to do their research. I ask them: In what ways does STEM influence your career? Musical engineering is one example. I want to expose them to many possibilities.”

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