Kenan Fellow presents on summer internship experience with EPA-RTP STEM Outreach

By Karen Stewart, EPA

Jen Cypra (center), GSK Kenan STEM Fellow with STEM Outreach. Also pictured are NERL’s Lauren Bamford (left), STEM Outreach Coordinator, and Kelly Witter (right), STEM Outreach Director.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Jen Cypra, a 2017-18 GSK Kenan STEM Fellow who was paired with the EPA-RTP STEM Outreach Program, recently presented on her four-week internship at EPA, including what she’s learned and how she will incorporate her new knowledge into the classroom.

Cypra is a fifth-grade STEM and AIG (academically and intellectually gifted) teacher at Grady Brown Elementary, a Title I school in Hillsborough, N.C. The school has more than 500 students, at least 50 percent of which receive a free or reduced lunch.

Cypra shared her presentation with EPA employees and STEM Outreach participants at the EPA-RTP campus on July 27,  2017. “This four-week internship has been so educational,” she told attendees. “I’m planning on integrating what I’ve learned into the curriculum at Grady Brown, as well as at other Orange County Public Schools.”

During her time at EPA, Cypra met one-on-one with more than 30 scientists, learned about various EPA programs like the Homeland Security Research Program, toured the campus, and visited EPA’s Village Green site and other air monitoring sites. She also participated in two EPA-sponsored teacher workshops and four STEM events with local students. After learning about EPA’s Clean Cookstove Research, she developed a lesson plan to teach students about this research and air pollutant emissions.

“I’m also in the planning stages of a year-long problem-based learning project with another AIG teacher in my county,” she explained. Their unit is called “Think Globally, Act Locally,” and teachers within the county will work together to incorporate STEM activities and engage students in the engineering and design process. Students will learn about a particular environmental problem, and then develop and implement solutions to that problem.

“My goal is to expand my students’ awareness at a young age of what jobs are out there,” said Cypra. “I want them to realize that there are jobs beyond a teacher or doctor, or what their parents do.” She also said she plans on bringing her students to EPA to visit and learn more about EPA careers and research.

The Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership at NC State University seeks to close the gap between the knowledge students acquire in the classroom and the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century workforce by placing educators in the workplace during the summer. NERL’s Kelly Witter, EPA-RTP STEM Outreach Director, commented on how the Fellows Program is a wonderful way to get EPA’s work out in the world.

“Having a teacher here this summer has been an incredible way to share EPA science with the public and multiply it manifold, since Jen will share what she has learned with students, teachers and parents.”