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RHMS science program gets another boost
RHMS teacher Robert Hodgdon, right, with Vernier Software & Technology Co-Presidents David and Christine Vernier at 2018 National Science Teachers Association Gala in Atlanta. - photo by Photo provided.

The STEM program at Richmond Hill Middle School continues to excel, this time in the form of a grant associated with national recognition for a teacher.

Robert Hodgdon was recently named one of two middle school teachers of the year by Vernier Software & Technology at the National Science Teachers Association annual meeting in Atlanta.

Each of the seven winners, from elementary to high school level, received $1,000 in cash and $3,000 worth of Vernier equipment. The Oregon-based company produces scientific data-collection technology for educators.

Hodgdon “engages students in real-world ecological investigations to help them develop STEM career-readiness skills,” reads a press release from Vernier. RHMS students use the company’s equipment to understand the “biotic and abiotic factors relevant to their local habitats such as tidal marshes, ephemeral wetlands and relic forests.”

Hodgdon said the joint efforts of the science teachers at RHMS have garnered the school some $12,000 in equipment and another $63,000 in funds raised toward the purchase of ecological technology equipment.

That includes almost $4,900 from the Toshiba America Foundation and $3,200 from Lowe’s just this month. The money from Toshiba will be used to purchase six wildlife cameras, while the Lowe’s grant is for power and hand tools.

The ecological studies program has won two state awards and garnered state and national recognition, including being involved in real-world surveys, monitoring activities and research projects with local, state and federal wildlife agencies.

“Our program is the most comprehensive school-based program of its kind, which is why it has garnered such attention across the state and even as high as the U.S. EPA,” Hodgdon said. “We have been successful as a result of a tremendous amount of support and collaboration from partner organizations and community stakeholders.”

For example, last fall local business leaders Jill and Gary Stanberry, Shannon and Randy Bocook and Johnny Murphy each donated $1,400 to the school for new imaging stations, which include a laboratory-quality microscope, high-resolution microscope camera and laptop. Students use the equipment for projects ranging from surveying Monarch butterflies to examining parasites that harm local shrimp populations.

Several middle schools teachers over the years have also won “Bright Idea” grants from Coastal Electric to pursue STEM projects for students.

“RHMS and our district is blessed with more than a fair share of outstanding teachers,” Hodgdon said.

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