“Inquiry Based Learning Using Polymers” provides valuable learning experience for middle and high school teachers


Each year the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) in Polymer Engineering Program provides valuable learning experience for middle and high school teachers from across the country. Participants travel to UA in order to learn about research methods and develop new lesson plans to take home to their students. But before they take their lesson plans back to their classrooms, they need to test them out. That’s where the workshop “Inquiry Based Learning Using Polymers” comes in.

This year’s workshop took place at UA’s Polymer Engineering Academic Center, and it was completely free and open to attend. Participants received free classroom materials, a certificate of participation, and experience with a variety of lesson plans to use in their own classrooms. Activities included lessons on ziplock bag chemistry; shape memory polymers; and viscoelastic liquids and demonstrations of polymer density columns; hydrophilic and hydrophobic polymers and surfaces; and glassy polymers. 

“Inquiry Based Learning” is led by John Fellenstein, Content Specialist for the Akron Global Polymer Academy (AGPA), and Dr. Kevin Cavicchi, the principal investigator on the RET Site and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering. It is one of AGPA’s educational ventures aimed toward adults. AGPA always strives to expand curiosity and knowledge about science and polymers, which includes educating kids K-12 and supporting their teachers.

The purpose of the workshop is to promote RET, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and to provide teachers with easy and fun tools with which they can bring science into the classroom. Most of the lesson plans developed during RET and presented during the workshop are readily available on the AGPA’s web site, and materials to complete them are inexpensive and readily obtainable.

It takes a lot to help programs like these succeed. Thanks to Dr. Cavicchi, John Fellenstein, AGPA and a grant from the National Science Foundation, teachers can come from anywhere to learn research methods and ways to get creative in the classroom.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EEC-1542358. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.