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Science Fair

On the Scene with Ben Popper at the Arkema hydrogen peroxide plant



School may still be out of session, but that isn't stopping some teachers from performing science experiments now.

At the Arkema hydrogen peroxide plant in Millington, teachers and scientists work on science experiments as part of a three-day program to give teachers more hands-on experience for the classroom.

After watching the plant's safety video, I am allowed to pass through a turnstile. An employee picks me up in her car, and as we drive deeper into the warrens of steel girders and piping, I lose track of which direction we came from. We pull up to a small building with a sign featuring a large eyeball and the letters A.L.E.R.T.

Once we pass inside, most of the industrial tensions slip away. Gathered around a large conference table are a number of teachers. One or two Arkema employees help each pair of "lab partners."

Arkema's Science Teacher Program, which began in 1996, is conducted in 14 different communities across the nation where the company has manufacturing operations. Each year, principals at a number of local schools are asked to nominate two teachers from grades three to six. The teachers attend a three-day program where they work with science kits that can then be brought to the students. They also receive a $500 stipend.

"This is a great program because each set of teachers has a mentor to go through the experiments with them," says Eileen Haklitch, a 10-year veteran of Our Lady of Sorrows in Frayser. She and co-teacher Lisa Petzinger are working on scale models of mountains with Steve Hayden, a process engineer for Arkema.

"We've already learned a lot here that we will be taking back into the classroom," says Haklitch. "We will also be sharing what we learned with the rest of the faculty before school starts."

Mary Jones and Sandy Jones, no relation to one another, are teachers at Millington Elementary. They are building a telegraph. "It is just wonderful to have the chance to sit down and explore these projects before we take them into the classroom," says Sandy Jones.

On my way back to the parking lot, I see the plant in a much gentler light. And as we pass the glaring eyeball, I notice that A.L.E.R.T. is really an anagram. It means Advanced Learning Eliminates Risk Today. n

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