Promoting aggregates to next generations

By |  December 21, 2012
Project Stone participants visit a variety of aggregate producers throughout the state of Ohio.

Project Stone participants visit a variety of aggregate producers throughout Ohio.

Evan Hartley, a chemistry teacher at Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus, Ohio, knew little about the aggregates industry before 2011. But Hartley gained new knowledge of aggregates two summers ago after participating in an earth and space science program designed for Ohio teachers like him.

By participating, Hartley picked up new material to share with students in his chemistry classroom. The material made his students more aware of the various career opportunities available within the industry.

“A lot of times students don’t understand why they’re learning what they’re learning,” Hartley says. “I constantly try to make connections between what’s happening in the real world and science. But until you have a substantial knowledge base, you don’t necessarily see those connections.”

About the program

The program in which Hartley participated, Project Stone, is hosted at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, in partnership with the Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association (OAIMA). Wright State has hosted the program for five consecutive years, although Bill Slattery, a Wright State associate professor who runs the program, discussed launching such a program for about 10 years with an OAIMA public relations committee chairman.

“Richard Martin (of Barrett Paving Materials Inc.) and I talked for a number of years about a program that would help students and teachers understand more about the industry,” Slattery says. “Dick and I talked about ways teachers and students could view the industry; and the ways teachers could bring back information about careers in the field and understand the process of having an aggregate or other industrial mineral site.”

The program that was eventually launched is divided into three phases. The first phase takes place in the classroom at Wright State, where teachers, grades 4 through 12, gather for classroom-style lessons and field trips over two weeks to quarries across Ohio.

Teachers meet with a variety of experts, including those who drill, blast and calculate a quarry’s reserves. One trip is to Bowser-Morner Inc., a Dayton testing company that typically enlightens teachers about the wealth of jobs in aggregates.

“Teachers get to see the industry through the eyes of the people who work in it,” Slattery says. “People from government, regulatory industries and other kinds of industries you would never suspect, such as airplanes doing aerial mapping and the people selling tires for machines, get involved.”

Project Stone, in particular, is an enticing program for teachers because the Ohio Board of Regents provides funding for it.

“The state agency that funds this program has allowed us to write in residency and support teachers throughout the state to come to Dayton and stay for two weeks in a hotel, get a food stipend and encourage them to be part of this,” Slattery says.

That the program’s costs are covered was a draw for Wagner.

“I don’t know of a program that makes it so easy to take a worthwhile course,” he says. “When I took the course, I lived in the Columbus area. I drove back sometimes and other nights I stayed. That in itself was a neat experience. They really took good care of the teachers.

“It was probably one of the more relaxing and enjoyable professional opportunities I’ve had,” Wagner adds.

Sharing the knowledge

Once teachers depart the classroom setting at Wright State, the program moves into its second and third phases, which occur online and in each teacher’s classroom. Teachers continue to communicate with each other online through Blackboard, a website that gives Project Stone participants the ability to network.

“Once a week, the entire group of teachers would meet online and have discussions,” Wagner says. “We would post responses to discussions. It was an online communication tool to talk about how you are using this in your classroom, what your classroom looks like.”

Science teachers pick up different project ideas for their classrooms, including this one in which students can calculate a quarry's reserves by "drilling" straws into a sand-filled box.

Science teachers pick up different project ideas for their classrooms, including this one in which students can calculate a quarry’s reserves by “drilling” straws into a sand-filled box.

Project Stone’s third phase is implementing the knowledge gained in the classroom with students. Part of each teacher’s assignment is to develop lesson plans to share with students. Slattery even shares inquiry-based projects of his own with teachers.

“Bedrock is somewhat different than just being flat,” Slattery says. “So, say you have a box. Say there’s a trough or a valley in the middle of the box. We’ll put sand on top of that so they can’t see the underside of the box.”

Then, just like in a real-world setting where infinite holes cannot be drilled, teachers are given five straws and asked to calculate the reserves in the box. They can put the straws anywhere in the box they please.

“Once you find out what the depth to the bottom is, you can trace out the bottom and calculate the volume in the box,” Slattery says. “So teachers get a feel for what a geoscientist would do by doing this exercise. Is it a perfect fit? No. But at this level that’s all right.”

Teachers then explain their straw placements and determine how much sand volume is in the box.

“They take that back to their classrooms and, based on the needs of their own students and their schools, they infuse what they did with their kids,” Slattery says. “And maybe they’ll add another element. We’ve had a lot of creativity with all of this. That creativity is put into lesson plans, and the teachers get credit for adding such lessons to their lesson plans.”

The lessons are placed online at www.oaima.org for other teachers to access. Currently, 20 lesson plans are available there, including two for kindergartners.

Spreading the wealth

One challenge Project Stone faces is promoting itself to aggregate producers. OAIMA hosted an educational session about the program at its annual meeting and trade show Nov. 15, 2012, asking those in attendance to share their business cards if they would like the program to contact the local school district on their behalf.

“Asking folks to stop and call their local school district and talk to the superintendent is not something they want to do,” Slattery says. “That’s why we asked them to give us their card. We want more people around the state of Ohio to be part of this.”

Slattery wouldn’t mind other states launching programs of their own to better promote the industry to teachers and their students.

“We would love to give this model away and say to any state or industry, ‘Here’s our model, go ahead and use it,'” Slattery says. “And they’ll probably improve it.”

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