Fermilab’s Teacher Resource Center helps STEM educators keep current

Fermilab’s Teacher Resource Center serves educators of all kinds: teachers, scientists, librarians and professors. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Just a few steps away from Fermilab’s iconic Wilson Hall, the one-room Teacher Resource Center provides educational materials for about 300 teachers each year.

“It may be small, but it’s mighty,” said Mike Knapp, eighth-grade science teacher at Marquardt Middle School in Glendale Heights, Ill. Knapp has used the TRC for decades.

Located at the Lederman Science Center, the TRC houses instructional materials for STEM classrooms ranging from pre-kindergarten all the way to professional development. The TRC’s shelves are filled not only with curriculum materials from many publishers, but also trade books, biographies and works of fiction that can be incorporated into a contemporary STEM classroom. The TRC is also a hub for online educational materials. Center staff offer free individual or group consulting on specific topics, such as implementing the Next Generation Science Standards or lesson plan themes such as electricity and magnetism.

“It’s a one-stop shop for anyone who’s teaching science. I can’t think of any other place where you can pull together curricula on so many different science topics,” said Brian Skriba, teacher at Hermes Elementary School in Aurora, Ill., and a curriculum partner for Aurora University’s John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School, which will open this fall.

The TRC staff also aims to link instructors with modern science in practice.

“We want teaching to reflect how science really works,” said Susan Dahl, TRC education program leader and president of Fermilab Friends for Science Education. “Fermilab is the perfect place for educators to see how scientists and engineers work with current technology and how STEM disciplines and practices come together.”

TRC users are not limited to K-12 instructors. Scientists who guest-lecture, librarians, university students and professors, as well as parents who want to supplement their children’s education, use the TRC.

“We define ‘educator’ broadly,” Dahl said.

Knapp started using the TRC after he participated in a Fermilab workshop in the late 1980s.

Since then, he’s not only brought new science lessons to his eighth graders, but also introduced the TRC to other teachers. As an adjunct instructor of continuing education classes at National Louis University, Knapp brings other teachers to Fermilab so they, too, can take advantage of the TRC.

“I’m trying to make sure it’s not the best-kept secret out there,” Knapp said. “The TRC can really help educators with a tight budget and limited resources. Materials come and go, but helpful advice from the TRC staff is really what makes the center valuable to me. It’s an educational mecca.”

Amanda Solliday