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Lourdes teacher completes PSU Center for Science and the Schools research program

COAL TOWNSHIP — Pennsylvania STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Ambassador Ann (Polites) Czeponis, a faculty member at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School, has completed the seven-week Penn State University CSATS (Center for Science and the Schools) Research Experiences for Teachers program.

Through a competitive application process, Czeponis was among 11 educators from across Pennsylvania who were virtually embedded in Penn State University (PSU) research labs. During the seven-week, full-time online research experience, which started June 15 and concluded Friday with a symposium, teachers worked alongside a faculty member to design sustainable building systems that promote environmental health and energy efficiency for existing structures.

Research topics included indoor air quality, lighting effectiveness, thermal comfort and energy efficiency. Teachers used their research experience to co-design a unit of study to enhance their current curriculum using their schools as “living laboratories.”

As a member of Research Experiences for Teachers (RET), Czeponis spent seven weeks engaged in an authentic research experience with a scientist or engineer based on her placement. During six of the seven weeks, she spent four days working a full-time virtual workday with the laboratory and one day working virtually with CSATS faculty to receive professional development.

Professional development days were on Friday and typically lasted about six hours each. During week seven of the program, RETs worked on their technical posters and/or classroom research projects to present at the RET Symposium.

Her lab placement was in architectural engineering with faculty researcher host Julian Wang. Her research focused on passive solar design, building windows and in situ measurement.

Her research project involved understanding the main strategies of passive solar design for buildings including solar energy features, solar heat utilization, climate and site. Based on the knowledge learned, teachers focused on one of the key building envelope components — windows.

The teachers learned the basic window optical and thermal properties and their functions for potential building energy savings.

In the last session of the project, they developed a simple Arduino-based sensor module, which can be used to measure the window properties on-site. Through this project, teachers gained the basic knowledge of solar energy, passive design strategies, Arduino sensor fabrication, in situ measurement method for windows and window energy impacts that they can apply and promote in their classrooms and in their daily lives.

The goals of the program are for teachers to gain a better understanding of the nature of research and the current practices of scientists and engineers.

CSATS faculty helped teachers translate their technical research experience into a classroom application for their students.

Czeponis is a STEM Teaching Fellow at the University of Notre Dame and a 2018 graduate of Pennsylvania’s Education Policy Fellowship Program. As a policy fellow, she and a team of colleagues proposed policy to leverage existing mechanisms as a means of bringing high quality STEM education to all of Pennsylvania’s students.

A member of a cohort of teachers at Lourdes, Czeponis is working on a new STEM initiative sponsored by Bose Corp., with the assistance of OLOL alumnus and Bose employee Bill Edmondson.

Czeponis is involved in the education of students in her middle-school classroom, as well as her college classes at Luzerne County Community College and Alvernia University, where she is an adjunct instructor teaching psychology and elementary education.

Czeponis said she is honored to work at her alma mater.

“They have invested in my growth as an educator and leader in STEM education,” she said. “I am privileged to have had the best possible professional development through the University of Notre Dame as a Trustey Family STEM Teaching Fellow.”

She said her experiences at Lourdes and her work at Notre Dame have led her to STEM advocacy. “My experiences in these unique contexts ingrain in me a belief that our core values and social teachings instruct us to lend a voice to amplify the calls around the state to push for equity and access to STEM education and training for all of Pennsylvania’s students,” she said.

Czeponis, a 1988 graduate of Lourdes, teaches seventh and eighth grade math and science. She has taught at Lourdes for six years. She previously served as a fourth grade teacher for four years.

She resides in Mount Carmel with her family.

She was awarded a Senior Fellow Residency last summer with a placement in the Camden Chemistry Lab at Notre Dame.

As a STEM Ambassador, Czeponis worked with a group at the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU) toward gaining national recognition for the Central Susquehanna STEM Ecosystem.

She is employed with National Geographic as a mentor in the NatGeo Educator Certification program and as a certification program presenter.

She earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Bloomsburg University with a concentration with the hearing impaired, and a minor in American sign language.

Czeponis obtained a master’s degree in education from Lock Haven University.

She has served as a curriculum development specialist, edTPA scorer and constructed response rater.

She was a teacher at South Western School District in York County and served as a district data coordinator for Southern Columbia Area School District.

Czeponis holds multiple other degrees and professional certifications and endorsements.

In recent years, Czeponis has worked very hard to provide authentic Integrated STEM experiences in her classes, but the CSATS program is slightly different.

“The curriculum that I build out of this will have students engaging in meaningful scientific or engineering research grounded in the practices espoused by the Next Generation Science Standards,” she said.

Czeponis added, “This seven-week experience has been a period of tremendous growth. I have no background in architectural engineering, so at times I found that I was very much out of my depth. In a few weeks, I was having to learn what doctoral-level students spend a lot of time learning. For me, that struggle was the best part. I know that I will be a more empathetic educator going forward. It was good to be reminded of what it feels like to be a student who is hanging on to learning by a delicate thread of understanding. I have seen through the eyes of those students, and when they are in my class, they will know that I get them.”

Czeponis has been invited back to participate in the program next year and is thrilled about receiving the invitation.

“I feel like we have just scratched the surface of what is capable with our research in the ArchiLambda Lab,” she said. “Another year also means another set of amazing opportunities for my students as well. The Pennsylvania Department of Education is working on rewriting the science standards right now. I definitely feel as though right now my students are experiencing the kind of learning that you will see in those standards when they are finished.”

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Royal Distancing

MOUNT CARMEL — Seated a socially distant 6 feet apart are Mount Carmel Area High School’s prom king and queen, Elijah Watkins and Peyton Galitski.

Mount Carmel held its prom on Friday evening, as did Southern Columbia Area High School. Shamokin Area High School’s prom was on Wednesday.

Ownership of recreational vehicles is up in the area, and many dealers attribute the rise to fears generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, a driver pulls an RV northwest on Route 54 on Friday afternoon. Below, merchandise caters to those who choose life in a camper.

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Verilife to hold ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday

SHAMOKIN — A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at Shamokin’s first medical marijuana dispensary known as Verilife.

Officials from the City of Shamokin, Verilife and its parent company PharmaCann will be among the participants at the ceremony outside the facility at North Shamokin and East Independence streets.

Renee Straup, outreach representative for Verilife, said the medical marijuana dispensary will officially open Tuesday morning. Business hours will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Straup said Verilife offers application assistance, medical marijuana education workshops, a quick-service session for providers and staff and an affiliate partnership benefit program.

Straup said more information about the services can be obtained by contacting her at 215-388-5276.

When Verilife opens for its clients — all of whom must have a state-issued medical marijuana card — plenty of products will fill the shelves and cabinets inside the structure, and several employees will be on-hand to assist anyone.

Pennsylvania law requires those who want to use medical marijuana to follow a doctor-approved process.

According to the state Department of Health, 89 medical marijuana dispensaries are located throughout Pennsylvania. Others in the region are open in Selinsgrove, Bloomsburg, Williamsport and State College.

Verilife has marijuana dispensaries in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Shamokin is Verilife’s second location in the state, with the other being in Philadelphia.

Pictured is the PIAA logo. The state athletic association announced Wednesday that fall sports seasons currently remain on track to start on time.