Where STEM is Endemic

![Talia Swiney portrait][swiney] Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) applications are used everywhere in hospitals. Just ask Kenan Fellow Talia Swiney. Ms. Swiney is an eighth grade math teacher at Ellerbe Middle School in Richmond County, North Carolina. For the last two summers she has shadowed hospital employees in a variety of positions at FirstHealth, a community hospital that serves the people of Richmond County and surrounding areas. She used the behind-the-scenes opportunity to document STEM applications related to health care and to integrate examples into her lessons.

[swiney]: /sites/default/files/images/swiney.jpg “Talia Swiney portrait”
[Ellerbe]: http://richmondems.sharpschool.net/ “Ellerbe Middle School”

Ms. Swiney spent time learning about labs, financial processes, facilities management and nutrition services. She found that employees in all areas of a hospital use math daily in their work. Among the comments she heard from professionals on staff was that too often new employees don’t understand the metric system. She took note.

Step into Swiney’s classroom and you will see students weighing and measuring baby dolls. As you listen and observe you quickly notice the teams of students working together to determine the appropriate dose of medicine to administer to their “ill” baby. This real-world lesson engages students in mathematical conversions using the metric system in a fun and meaningful experience. According to Swiney, “Now my students do pediatric labs, converting information they have gathered from standard to metric. It’s so much more exciting for them to use math for a purpose than for just trying to solve formulas.”

“I’ve noticed a change in the classroom atmosphere since I started the Kenan Fellows Program,” Swiney continued. “The kids are more engaged. It’s moved from a teacher-led class to a group effort. We have discussions and we problem-solve, all based on real-world situations in which they understand the need to apply mathematics.”

John Jackson, President of FirstHealth / Richmond Memorial Hospital, said the primary reason for partnering with the Kenan Fellows Program is what this means to the students. “Everyone is responsible for trying to improve education…I was honored that we were asked to participate.”

Swiney will share her innovative lessons with other teachers in her school district and throughout North Carolina.

[fh]: http://www.firsthealth.org/Hospitals%20&%20Facilities/Richmond%20Memorial%20Hospital/index.asp “Richmond Memorial Hospital”

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