By Mark Rountree
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When Westwood Elementary School science teachers Rebecca Palmatary and Sandy Major were informed Wednesday morning of a mid-day assembly in the school auditorium, they were not particularly thrilled with the announced topic — a seminar offering tips to fourth-graders on how to achieve better test results.
“I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to go to that assembly. It’s taking away from my instruction time,’” Palmatary said.
But with approximately 80 of their fourth-grade students in attendance, the teachers soon would find 10,000 reasons to be happy about the interruption of instruction time.
Representatives from Devon Energy made a surprise visit to announce that the teachers and Westwood were the recipients of a $10,000 grant that will go toward the purchase of Microsoft Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro tablets, as well as accessories for two fourth-grade science classrooms at Westwood. With the tablets, students will be able to work in small groups to research, compile, record and report findings during hands-on science units.
“These devices will also integrate our classroom with the outside world by providing a mobile classroom format,” said Palmatary, who has been in education for eight years. “This will help our students highlight science-related career paths. ... This is real-world technology. By the time they graduate college, they will be using programs like this and devices like this in their everyday lives. We’re just trying to set them up to be future scientists.”
“I’m very excited,” said Major, a 28-year veteran teacher. “I feel this will impact the students at Westwood for several years. The technology that Devon is granting us to bring to our classroom will help give more in-depth demonstrations of what they’ve done in their science experiments in class.”
Schools throughout north-central Oklahoma were invited to apply for the Devon Science Giants grant, and applications were judged based on innovative and sustainable approaches used in and out of the classroom to cultivate students’ continued interest in science. Westwood was chosen to receive the grant to fund creative and innovative approaches in the science classroom.
“The need is always there. You’re always looking for opportunities to expand with technology to engage students at a higher level,” Westwood Principal Darren Nelson said. “In terms of the brain work putting (the grant) together, it’s no surprise to me. They are both bright, successful educators who are committed to student learning.”
Devon representatives recognized Palmatary and Major at the assembly and presented an oversized check to the school. Oklahoma City Thunder mascot Rumble the Bison also made a surprise visit to join in the celebration. Students at the assembly received Devon Thunder Kid’s Club kits.
“Science plays a critical role in the oil and gas industry,” Devon Production Superintendent Matt Pettyjohn said. “These students are the future workforce of Oklahoma, so we want to reward schools that are striving to inspire students.”
through strategic and creative approaches for science education.”