FAREWELL & JOURNEY ON!

Thank you Penn College Public Relations & Marketing staff for this fond farewell!

Life is a journey, not a destination. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In December 1980, I left my job as a newspaper reporter to return to my alma mater, Williamsport Area Community College, where I accepted a position as a “communications clerk.” I did not expect it to be a life changing decision, just temporary employment while I considered my options.

Over the next 38 years, I had the privilege of communicating messages about the college I loved. I expanded my knowledge base from journalism and photography to printing, advertising, magazine publishing, web publishing and television production. I became a leader of the college information and community relations team.

I was part of a group of higher education administrators that planned for the transition of Williamsport Area Community College into Pennsylvania College of Technology, an affiliate of Penn State. I stood by my good friend and colleague Davie Jane Gilmour as she become president of the institution (and my boss).

Together with many friends and colleagues, I proudly watched our college earn a national reputation for excellence while remaining a keystone of the local community. Four years ago, the entire campus and community celebrated a memorable centennial anniversary.

All of this might sound like a dream come true, but the truth is I never even dreamed of the opportunities that blessed my career.  As I look back, I am amazed at how much can happen when you simply open your heart and mind and follow the path that appears before you.

Friend and colleague Cindy Meixel and other members of the PRM staff made sure I would always have a touch of Penn College close at hand.

This will be my final producer’s blog, as I am retiring on December 31. But, the journey continues.

In 2019, two new films will be released in the Working Class public television documentary series. You can expect an announcement regarding the premiere of Working Class: Helping & Healing early in the year. A few months later, Working Class: Moving Fast & Forward will follow.

Working Class: Helping & Healing highlights the importance of science, math, communication and hands-on experience in preparing students for success in health and human service careers.

Working Class: Moving Fast & Forward features Penn College’s nationally recognized transportation technology programs while exploring the history of transportation and advanced technology career opportunities for the future.

Like earlier films in the series, these will highlight the importance of hands-on experience in academic learning and feature interviews with experts and faculty who contribute to the advancement of education and society.

As I end my career as the executive producer of the Working Class series. I am confident that talented professionals on staff at Penn College and WVIA Public Media will continue to expand the series and share with the audience pertinent career awareness information and inspiring stories of success in education and the workplace.

I am pleased to announce today that the Working Class K-12 Art Challenges will continue in 2019, under the capable and enthusiastic leadership of Penny Lutz, director of the Gallery at Penn College. Penny appeared in the very first episode of the series Working Class: Dream & Do as moderator of a maker space roundtable. She will do a terrific job coordinating the art challenges in the future.

I would like to thank the individuals who have made this initiative possible: Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour, WVIA President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Curra (who is also my Working Class executive producing partner), WVIA’s Chief Development Officer Ron Prislupski, and Chris Leigh, Penn College’s Video Production Coordinator, who created the series with me and led the development of each episode from initial video shoots to final editing.

Saying thanks – but never goodbye – to my creative partner Chris Leigh whose patience with me and with our productions took us to the Telly Award winning level.

I offer special appreciation to each member of the Penn College faculty, each K-12 educator, and each industry expert who sat for interviews and gave their time and energies to support the Working Class productions.

I also want to thank the Public Relations and Marketing office at Penn College. Each member of the staff has contributed in one way or another to my career and to the success of the Working Class series. Special thanks goes to Phil Warner, who develops and maintains the Working Class website.

Finally thank you, the audience of educators, parents, students and supporters of education who have actively participated in the success of our Telly Award winning productions. Please continue to support the series and the people who will guide it in the future.

I am grateful for a long, satisfying career that has taken me on an unforgettable journey through life. And now … the journey continues.

 

 

 

 

USE IT OR LOSE IT?

Could science be lost?

Although we experience it on a daily basis, most of us do not think about science unless challenged to choose a side on a political debate, such as climate change.

Einstein famously said, “Politics is more difficult than science.” Still, most students and teachers will tell you that science is not easy.

A teacher can make a real difference by encouraging students to be curious and explore real problems that can be solved by persevering through the academic challenge that is science.

Robert N. McCauley, author of Why Religion is Natural and Science Is Not, says for most people “Science is something really that’s out there quite at a distance from them … but they do understand, first and foremost, the spinoffs in two domains of life. One is in technologies … also in healthcare … for most human beings, there’s a certain point in their life when these consequences of science turn out to be really important.”

” … for most human beings, there’s a certain point in their life when these consequences of science turn out to be really important.”

Because students – particularly those interested in advanced technology or healthcare careers – need to build a strong foundation in science early in their education, Dr. McCauley expresses concern about society’s disinterest in (and sometimes disrespect for) the subject.

“Science is surprisingly more fragile, I think, than most citizens realize,” he says.

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. McCauley – professor of philosophy, psychology, religion and anthropology at Emory University in Atlanta and founding director of Emory’s Center for Mind, Brain and Culturewhen he visited Pennsylvania College of Technology in 2017. Portions of that interview appear Working Class: Helping & Healing, a new episode in the award-winning documentary series scheduled for release this winter.

“Science is surprisingly more fragile … than most citizens realize.”

Dr. McCauley believes science “crucially depends upon a sound system of education throughout the society. Not everyone is going to be a scientist. Not everyone is going to be a technologist. But we don’t know who they are from the outset and, moreover, it seems to me in a democratic system it’s vitally important that all of our citizens gain a solid education and become literate citizens.”

In Working Class: Helping & Healing, Dr. McCauley describes how own his sixth grade teacher – with whom he reconnected just a few years ago – bestowed upon him a lifelong love of learning. I would like to share that story with you and encourage you to watch the film when it premieres this winter.

“New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2016, was the 100th birthday of Florence Karnofski … certainly throughout all of my basic public education there was no teacher who had any remotely as close an influence on me as she did. She encouraged me in all the interests that I had – in philosophical interest and mathematical interest and historical interest and literary interest – and I find it astonishing, really, when I look back on this, that quite literally it is the case that there are things that I learned in sixth grade that I can still explicitly remember that have had an impact on my professional life. That’s really a pretty extraordinary accomplishment. I actually started assembling a list of all the things that I thought Florence Karnofski was responsible for me knowing about and the list is three single-spaced pages of items that I can still, as I said, explicitly recall.”

He noted that social science research has revealed this type of encouragement has a profound effect on student success.

“The findings are that if a student has a single, even one, great teacher … they have a bounce in their income relative to people who don’t have such an experience. At an early age, in a setting where these ideas were not widespread, Florence Karnofski introduced me to the power of ideas and their abilities to change not only your life but the world.”

We all want to improve our lives through innovation. We want to live long, healthy lives. To that end, science matters, and teachers who are able to inspire student learning matter.

Useable Knowledge, a digital publication based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, encourages teachers to “portray science as acquiring skills, rather than memorizing facts. If the classroom focuses on the scientific process of discovery, more students will be engaged in the subject matter.”

We cannot lose our enthusiasm for science. Science matters. It is necessary. It is the foundation for technology, for health care, for art, music, and so much more.

Alan Lightman, a physicist, author and educator featured in a recent Working Class blog, finds the joy in science as a journey toward understanding the world and ourselves.

“Science is an intellectual journey, and to me, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey to get there,” Lightman declared in an interview published by Aegis in 2006. “It’s a way of thinking and it’s an intellectual curiosity, a desire to know how the world works, and to know what the fundamental principles of the world are, and to know our place in it.”

We all want to know our place in the world. If we can open classrooms to curiosity, students may come to believe that science and other academic subjects really do allow them to explore anything and everything that piques their interests.

ENTER YOUR STUDENTS IN K-12 WHY SCIENCE MATTERS ART CHALLENGE!

Working Class is challenging K-12 students to depict the importance of science in everyday life using any art supplies and medium they choose.

Entries in the Why Science Matters Art Challenge will be accepted via email, with a digital photo (JPEG file) of the original artwork attached. A separate email is required for each entry and must include the following information: challenge title (Why Science Matters); artist’s name; teacher/parent name and email address; grade, school (or homeschool); city and state; and entry category (Student in Grades K-Six or Student in Grades Seven-12). Please email entries and questions to elambert@pct.edu

Inspiration for the art challenge comes from Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters, which is available now for online viewing on demand through PBS and WVIA Public Media, on YouTube or the Working Class website.

 

 

SCIENCE NEEDS ARTISTS

Reflections in a fountain at the main entrance of Pennsylvania College of Technology

“A life is a moment in season. A life is one snowfall. A life is one autumn day. A life is the delicate, rapid edge of a closing door’s shadow.” – from Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

A poet did not conceive these lyrical lines. A theoretical physicist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, who is also an acclaimed novelist and author, did.

Common misperceptions are that science and art do not mix, artists loathe math and science, and scientists are analytical, not lyrical. Alan Lightman’s work proves that theory is incorrect.

One of the first professors to receive a dual faculty appointment in science and humanities at MIT, Lightman introduced an examination of the significance, potential and limitations of major scientific and technological discoveries at Pennsylvania College of Technology several years ago.

Alan Lightman speaking at Pennsylvania College of Technology in 2014

Former colleagues Veronica Muzic and Mark Noe (both now retired) and I had the pleasure of convincing Professor Lightman to accept an invitation to visit Penn College via a telephone conversation.

As we described the college’s history, mission and emphasis on applied technology majors, he listened and formulated ideas for his inaugural presentation of “Our Home in the Material Universe.” Many of the ideas touched on during the 2014 appearance at Penn College are included in his 2018 book, In Praise of Wasting Time.

Another Lightman book published in 2018, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, prompted the The New York Times Book Review to declare, “Science needs it poets, and Alan Lightman is the perfect amalgam of scientist (an astrophysicist) and humanist (a novelist who’s also a professor of the practice of humanities at M.I.T.) …”

Lightman’s international bestseller Einstein’s Dreams is one of the most widely read books on college campuses. It is a favorite of Pennsylvania College of Technology physics professor, David S. Richards, who appears in Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters.

When I interviewed David for the Working Class documentary, he recalled, “When I was in college, I wasn’t sure exactly what path I wanted to go. I enjoyed literature and chemistry and physics. I went to a liberal arts college. I had a professor who was very dynamic and interesting, and told stories, and brought it down to earth, and made it real. He hooked me. He got me really interested in physics.”

Now David is helping Penn College students see the connection between theory and the practical applications of physics in the real world.

Physics is fundamental to Professor David S. Richards.

This level of engagement in academic study is possible when teachers help students connect theories with practical applications.

The Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters documentary is an excellent tool for teachers and parents to help students explore the connections between science and exciting careers in advanced manufacturing and engineering technologies.

Another tool to inspire students’ creativity in combination with science lessons is the Why Science Matters Art Challenge sponsored by Penn College and WVIA Public Media, producers of the Telly Award-winning Working Class documentary series.

The challenge invites student artists to depict the importance of science in everyday life and offers awards in two categories: K-6th grade and grades 7-12. Students may use any medium and supplies they choose. Deadline for entries is Dec. 1.

Entries are accepted via email, with a digital photo (jpeg file) of the original artwork attached. A separate email is required for each entry and must include the following information: challenge title (“Why Science Matters”); artist’s name; teacher/parent name and email address; grade; school (or homeschool); city and state; and entry category (Student in Grades K-Six or Student in Grades Seven-12).

A chosen artist in each category will receive a basket of books and supplies related to the art challenge. Email entries and questions to me, Elaine Lambert, executive producer of Working Class at elambert@pct.edu.

Our website http://workingclass.tv/ features images of past student art entries.

The response of students and teachers to our Working Class art challenges has been fantastic. They find – as we find in producing the series – putting forth extra effort always is rewarding.

And, according to Professor David Richards, our lives and careers mirror this fundamental law of physics.

“You always get out what you put in,” he declared. “We’re always transforming ourselves, and shifting ourselves from one thing to another. We’re still the same person. We’re always transforming ourselves, but at the same time, we’re one individual.”

Scientist. Artist. Technician. Teacher. We all have many sides that are worth exploring.

INDUSTRY NEEDS TEACHERS

SMART Girls learn the importance of Science and Math Applications in Real-World Technologies at Pennsylvania College of Technology. More information available online at https://www.pct.edu/summer-camps/smart-girls

High demand for skilled workers, coupled with low interest among potential future employees, could make or break American industry.

Is there a chance that math and science teachers could make a difference?

Recent polls conducted by manufacturers’ groups indicate that, despite a growing demand for skilled employees, more than half of all teenagers have no interest in pursuing manufacturing careers.

Old ideas – often shared across the generations by those who remember dark, dirty factories of the past – contradict the real promise of opportunity in modern manufacturing.

A new public television documentary, Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters, helps dispel myths regarding modern manufacturing.

What skills are needed in today’s manufacturing environments?

According to research conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, “Today’s modern manufacturing workers need a variety of skills. Strong problem-solving skills can equate to the ability to autonomously adjust robots and production systems real-time. Math skills can translate into applied competencies in measurement and spatial reasoning. Technical skills have practical application in areas such as metallurgy, and technical system operations such as fluid power electrical controls. Understanding algorithms and advanced computing can translate into the ability to develop advanced technologies such as 3D-modeling and advanced robotics. Overall, as product development and manufacturing systems become more interwoven and cycle times shorten, workers need to have higher levels of STEM and analytical skills in order to influence design changes as well as production efficiency.”

Plastics engineering and technology lab at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Educators understand the challenges behind the development of problem-solving skills, math skills, technical skills, algorithms and advanced computing, higher levels of STEM and analytical skills. Industry leaders understand the consequences of unmet challenges.

In record numbers, baby boomers are vacating skilled positions – machinists, operators and technicians – that account for more than 50 percent of manufacturing jobs. What kind of prospect pool is waiting to replace the knowledge and experience the aging workers will take with them into retirement?

There is also a deeper fear that a shortage of highly specialized scientists and design engineers could slow down new product development and hinder the implementation of new manufacturing processes.

In the era when “STEM” is a buzzword in education, we need to make students more aware of how their academic classes can prepare them for future careers.

“In terms of manufacturing, it’s understanding the process. It’s all problem solving and critical thinking … and students don’t get that real experience until they’re faced with a challenge.”

Kelly B. Butzler, an associate professor of chemistry at Pennsylvania College of Technology who now works with high schools involved with the Penn College NOW dual enrollment program, remembers learning the importance of labs when she worked as a ninth grade physical science teacher at the start of her career.

Kelly B. Butzler (far right) addresses high school teachers participating in Penn College NOW dual enrollment program.

“The teachers I worked with were very, very innovative in the way they taught,” Kelly said. “They taught the lab first, and then they followed up with looking at the data. Then they followed that up with the concepts. It was a brilliant way of teaching it, because then the students are like, ‘Oh, I understand that concept because I just interacted with it. Now I have experience with that concept.’ It stuck.”

Today, Kelly teaches chemistry to college students planning to work in manufacturing, health care and engineering – all areas in which science makes an impact.

“I think the most important part of science – whether it’s physics or geology or chemistry or biology – is really understanding the thought process that goes through to solve a problem,” she explains. “In terms of manufacturing, it’s understanding the process. It’s all problem solving and critical thinking … and students don’t get that real experience until they’re faced with a challenge.”

Some students bring real-world challenges into Kelly’s chemistry classes. She recalls a day when plastics and engineering technology students began a classroom discussion about compostable plastics bottles.

Associate Professor Kelly B. Butzler teaches scientific method to prepare students to problem solve in careers.

“I love learning from my students because they’ll come in and tell me these new innovative ideas … They were talking about recyclable or compostable plastic bottles (basically water bottles that you can put in the compost). I asked them, ‘How is this working? Because if they’re biodegradable, eventually in the store they’re going to sit there and they’re going to just start dissolving themselves.’”

“They said, ‘No, it has a certain shelf life.’ They have to make sure that after a certain time they get them off the shelves, because they won’t stay there forever. That’s the kind of thing our students are actually working on – new, biodegradable plastics  and things that … instead of just going into the landfill, they’re able to either biodegrade or melt down or dissolve, and basically it’s not going to affect the environment.”

In order for students to become innovators, they must embrace the scientific method that teachers like Kelly Butzler reinforce regularly in classroom discussions.

“When my students talked to me about the biodegradable plastics, the first thing I asked them was, ‘What’s out there in the literature? What have people done? Where do they do this? What do they use to manufacture things?’ Because the literature, and what other scientists have done, helps our students try to figure out what they can do differently. That whole process of reading the literature … it’s the foundation of whatever they’re going to end up doing. Looking at it and saying, ‘Okay, where’s the chemistry behind this and how did this researcher have those chemicals interact to form a product? What if I change just one thing on it, what’s going to happen?’ That would start their hypothesis and then, of course, their experimentation on manufacturing a new product.”

Kelly confidently teaches her students the importance of learning how to think, analyze and solve problems “because you’re going to be using those skills every day.”

Penn College plastics engineering and technology students solve challenges in labs.

Making students aware of opportunities and helping them connect classroom learning to their own potential for success is important to maintain a skilled workforce for future generations.

Why Science Matters Art Challenge deadline Dec. 1

Initiatives like the Telly Award-winning Working Class public television documentary series invite students, educators and parents to learn more about 21st century career opportunities. Tune in to the latest film released in the series, Working Class: Competition Drives Innovation! Why Science Matters, and you’ll meet Kelly Butzler and other teachers who are inspiring tomorrow’s success stories today.

Working Class also is seeking young artists to take our Why Science Matters K-12 Art Challenge. Deadline for entries is Dec. 1. Follow the link for details.