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Teacher to take ice cream lab lessons to classroom

Thursday, July 15, 2010

(Photo contributed) Nanette Fladung, a science teacher at Heelan High School in Sioux City, is surrounded by petri dishes at the Wells' Dairy Inc. food technology microbiology lab as she conducts tests on finished products and raw materials for ice cream products. She will bring her experiences back to the classroom this fall.
A program started to promote math and science in the classroom has brought teachers and businesses together.

Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership (IMSEP) is a state funded initiative.

The goal is to get more math and science teachers in the classroom and students excited about those subjects.

This summer, Wells' Dairy, Inc. in Le Mars, became one of 30 Iowa businesses taking part in "The Real World Externships for Teachers of Mathematics & Science."

Nanette Fladung, a biology and physics teacher at Heelan High School in Sioux City, spent six weeks working in the Wells' Dairy microbiology lab.

She will bring her experience back to the classroom this fall in her biology and physics classes.

"My job (at Wells') was to test the finished product, ice cream, as well as the ingredients and all things going into the product," said Fladung. "It (the experience) has science content that I used and can take back and use in the classroom."

Fladung said the job offered a lot of information on microbiology, cells and bacteria, which she can incorporate in her classroom teaching.

Dave Smetter, spokesman for Wells' Dairy, said the real work experience is a good idea.

"This is a great opportunity for educational instructors to come into a company and see the real work applications, in this case, science," said Dave Smetter, a spokesman for Wells' Dairy.

"It allows teachers to learn about new developments and innovation and take it to the classroom," he said. "It's not just textbook learning. Teachers are able to augment that through real work experience."

The program is in its second year, with 33 teacher "externs" (teachers working in a business setting to bring techniques back to the classroom) participating. Last year, it paired 10 math and science teachers with businesses.Other northwest Iowa businesses participating include Diamond Vogel Paints in Orange City, Diversified Industries/Sudenga in George, and the Department of Natural Resources offices in Sioux City and Onawa.

The program is led by the University of Northern Iowa in partnership with Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.

The program was expanded with the help of a grant from the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

There is no cost to the business, and participating teachers will earn graduate credit for their work.

Fladung said she has a lot of paperwork to complete for the graduate credit, now that her six weeks at the ice cream and novelty manufacturer are done.

She is a graduate of Sioux City East High School and earned her degree in biochemistry from Iowa State University. She worked for a number of years before going into teaching.

"It's amazing how much stuff you forget about in the classroom. There's a lot of new technology in the labs. Things change very quickly," Fladung said.

Smetter pointed outit's always good to create those partnerships and relationships with educational systems and local business community-based companies

"We're always looking to give back to communities in many different ways," Smetter saiid.

Tonja Richards, marketing and communications for IMSEP, said "At a time where, both locally and nationally, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) competencies are paramount to our future economic growth.

Iowa, she said, is leading the way to inspire both teachers and students to learn about the business of science and math in their home towns.

In addition to the summer program, IMSEP follows the teachers throughout the following year, tracking how their experiences are passed on to students, and their efforts to inspire students excited about career opportunities in STEM-related fields.

Fladung said the program helps her look at 21st century skills, focusing on the Iowa Core Curriculum and how they apply to Wells' Dairy.

"I'd definitely encourage other teachers to take advantage of this opportunity to learn," Fladung said.

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