The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District last month presented a Science Showcase, highlighting the $150,00 in lab equipment recently purchased to enhance the science curriculum.
The Mountain View Los Altos High School Foundation and Google Grants donated the funds for the new equipment. The foundation has made enriching the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program at local high schools a priority.
“A major goal is to focus on STEM education for all students and to do more than textbook learning,” said Superintendent Barry Groves. “We want to be hands-on and to be excited about science. These things that the foundation is supporting are the things that are going to make a difference for our kids.”
The Science Showcase consisted of several brief presentations from science instructors, who demonstrated the new bells and whistles available in classrooms this year.
Teri Faught, who teaches biology, earth science and environmental science at Mountain View High, said she was thankful for being able to purchase new specimens – two cow hearts and a sheep’s brain.
“Tangible specimens often inspire students to enter research or the medical field,” she said.
Digital microscopes also “brought life back to microbiology,” Faught said, adding that before acquisition of the new technology, the department was using 20-year-old slides.
Faught praised the classroom set of pressure cuffs and stethoscopes, noting that students became more engaged with the new equipment.
Steven Widmark, physics and earth science teacher at Mountain View High, presented a video showing students operating new equipment in classes. The students used Labquest 2 Data Collection Units to record information live during experiments dealing with distance and velocity. He also touted the use of a radio frequency responder that polls students after posing a question.
Mountain View High biology and chemistry teacher Anthony Gallego lauded the new technology, which aided his students during data collection. He explained the benefits of receiving 32 Microsoft Pro tablets.
“Students are no longer chained to the lab table,” he said. “These tablets allow robust data analysis. It allows students and teachers to project their work.”
Greg Stoehr, biology and environmental science teacher at Los Altos High, extolled the gift of digital microscopes. He projected slides on a large screen, demonstrating how both teacher and students can make annotations on each digital slide and save the images.
“The students spend more time analyzing,” he said. “This totally changes the way we teach with slides.”
Darren Dressen, chemistry teacher at Los Altos High, discussed the benefits of the miniature gas chromatograph, which assists students during experiments. He said the technology helps to answer students’ questions, encouraging their curiosity and engagement.
Los Altos High physics teacher Adam Randall uses a high-frequency vibration tool to study waves and patterns in his class.
Meghan Stratz, biotechnology teacher at Los Altos High, outlined a new course she was able to introduce at the school.
“The really neat thing about this course is that it allows us to tie in everything the students have learned or are learning in their bio, chemistry and physics courses to understand genetics at a better level,” she said.
Stratz demonstrated the transilluminator, showing the audience how students can use the tool to take pictures of DNA and identify characteristics that indicate a genetically modified organism.
“What I really appreciate about this is that we can now allow students to do real science or citizen science projects,” she said.
Mountain View High chemistry teacher Katie Thornburg addressed the donors in the audience.
“I would like to thank all of you for the contributions you have made,” she said. “You have made our program much richer and much more attractive in many, many ways.”
For more information on the foundation, visit mvlafoundation.org.