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Schodack CSD Science Teacher Leonard Bacon (photo provided)

Since 2014, Questar III’s Summer STEM Research Program has placed local secondary school STEM teachers in local businesses, colleges/universities and research facilities to get hands-on experience in areas related to the courses they teach – providing their students a more authentic education and better preparing them for the world they will encounter after graduation.

Leonard Bacon teaches Earth Science and AP Environmental Science at Maple Hill High School in Schodack. This is his second year in the program, and he is working with Dr. Morgan Schaller at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute studying environmental conditions around the time of a mass extinction event 200 million years ago.

Briefly describe your research to someone without a STEM background.
I am working at RPI in the lab of Dr. Morgan Schaller. I will be measuring the Carbon content and the C13/C12 ratio of basalt samples that were emplaced approximately 200 million years ago. The basalt emplacement occurred about the same time as a mass extinction event that is associated with C13 isotope excursion. The isotope excursion is an indicator of a large release of CO2 into the environment which may be related to the extinction event.

What made you want to apply for the Summer STEM program?
The summer STEM program provides me with the opportunity to experience professional growth outside of the school environment. I learn something new each day.

How do you see this program impacting your instruction and benefiting your students?
I have been able to gain a greater understanding of the subject matter I teach which improves my ability to help students. I also have been able to design new activities for my students so that they may gain a better understanding of science content and processes and to apply what they have learned to new situations.

What are you most looking forward to through the program, or what has been the most beneficial experience for you so far?
I enjoy working with the research team and the challenge of trying to answer difficult questions

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