DMM, Other Departments Provide Science Kits for Students
This story originally appeared in the Feb. 16 issue of the Department of Materials Management (DMM) newsletter.
“My staff and I want students to enjoy science again. That’s what the bus operators and attendants at Shady Grove [Bus Depot] are helping us do.” That statement captures Tom DuMars’ mandate during these challenging times. He is the director at the Taylor Science Materials Center of DMM. He has been working with his dedicated staff of five to do the necessary work of preparing science kits for elementary school students (and sometimes middle and high school students) since the 1990s.
“Children, no matter what their age, can do science, and they should be allowed to do science,” he emphasized. In order to continue this system of WE PROVIDE, related to materials and instruction throughout these challenging times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tom needs help to keep this invaluable program going. Before the pandemic, students would share kits in the classroom. That is not possible now. Kits have to be prepared for each student—69,000 in Grades K through 5, twice per year. Packets also are made for some middle and high school students, totaling more than 92,000 packets for students at all grade levels. With the help of our DMM Director Jeanie Dawson, in negotiations with Department of Transportation Director Todd Watkins, colleagues at the Shady Grove Depot have chipped in and are making great strides toward providing a science kit for each student.
The kits are compiled based on the MCPS curriculum needs and requirements of the Next Generation Science Standards—a multi-state effort to create new education standards that are “rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education.” Then, these kits are delivered to schools, where 4,300 teachers organize them for parents to pick up for their students. The program is very cost effective. “Some of the pieces are meant to be recycled, and kits are refitted when they are returned to us,” Tom explained.
“Knowing that this is for our little students that are not getting the hands-on science experiments as they would if we had in-person schooling is so important,” explained Shelly Harter, bus route supervisor, Northwest/Seneca Valley Cluster, who heads up the group at the Shady Grove Depot.
The group of 18 bus operators and bus attendants work from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, packing seeds and other materials into individual packets. “We are still going strong. Working with Mr. DuMars has been great as well. If we need anything, he is right there and answers his phone immediately,” Shelly said.
The group is crushing its goals, as I witnessed while meeting with Tom. He answered a phone call from Shelly, who informed him that they needed more materials for packets because they had completed the 8,000 goal before lunchtime. Tom was more than pleasantly surprised and promised to get more materials to them as soon as possible. “In four days, our DOT folks made 27,600 kits,” Shelly later explained. “I was so amazed at what we had accomplished in such a short time, I even made a Facebook post about how empowered I felt and proud to be part of such an amazing team and awesome project.”
Tom DuMars, an instructional specialist, has been with MCPS since 1987. The science kit program is his brainchild. He trained MCPS teachers in how to use the kits with their students. His work has been sought after by other school systems, including Washington County. “The aim is to let kids experience what a fair test is and understand that science is couched in facts,” Tom explained. According to Tom, interdepartmental cooperation is what we need to support all MCPS students.
Special Education, Transportation and DMM Collaborate for Special Ed Students
A group of staff from the Department of Transportation, under the direction of Kristin Secan, supervisor, Autism Spectrum Disorders Services, are providing Special Education teachers, paraeducators, and transportation staff with kits for use during the Phase 1 return-to-school operations.
Department of Special Education (DSE) staff determined the personal protective equipment needs for Special Education programs, including masks, gloves, goggles, face shields, bottles of hand sanitizer, disposable gowns, and hair nets. The Department of Materials Management (DMM) sourced and procured those materials. DSE and DOT staff members assembled 2,035 kits, and DMM delivered those kits to schools slated for Phase 1 operations. Around 600 of these kits went to transportation staff. Special thanks to the Educational Systems Federal Credit Union for donating several thousand bags to house the kits.
At DMM, we are all educators! These stories of cooperation speak to the power of those who work in K–12 education during these difficult times, seeking the greater good through individual acts of excellence.