Feature Story

Supporting Opportunities to Learn Outside the Classroom

School bells are ringing, textbooks are being opened, and teachers and students are settling into their classrooms.

However, some teachers and students are stepping outside their campus for hands-on educational opportunities.

As part of its commitment to education-both in helping prepare high school students for science careers, as well as in addressing disparities in educational opportunities among underserved populations-Baxter International Inc. has supported various initiatives for both students and teachers that provide not only instruction but also real-world experience.

Interning at Baxter
Early this year, Baxter developed a paid internship program for high school students from Chicago's Lindblom Math and Science Academy, in response to the call from the White House Council for Community Solutions (WHCCS) and the U.S. Department of Labor for businesses, non-profits, and governments to participate in the Summer Jobs+ program.

Nine students spent five weeks interning at Baxter's headquarters in specific job functions, not only getting the opportunity to work on diverse projects, but also participating in weekly orientation sessions with senior executives, attending formal business lunches and becoming acquainted with workplace etiquette, participating in team building exercises and learning about networking, punctuality and interviewing techniques. 

"[The internship] has prepared me for real work experience, hard work, and multi-tasking," said rising Lindblom senior Brittni Pratt. "It's also prepared me to take life a little more seriously and start working more to get where I want to be."

Building robots through FIRST®
High school students in Mountain Home, Ark., received a very different education-one involving hands-on science through robotics-through their Baxter-sponsored FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) team. Founded by world-renowned inventor, physicist, entrepreneur and Baxter collaborator, Dean Kamen, FIRST engages students in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills and has influenced hundreds of thousands of students throughout the world to pursue advanced education and careers in engineering and related scientific fields.

This past April, Mountain Home's Baxter Bomb Squad team won the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship, for the first time in the team's 17 years of participation, with a robot the students designed, programmed and built to compete in a basketball-inspired game.

A participating freshman, John Taylor Novak-whose father, John Novak, is a senior engineer at Baxter's Mountain Home facility and a Baxter Bomb Squad member has found the experience to be valuable. "My knowledge of science and technology would not be anywhere near what it is today without the Baxter Bomb Squad and FIRST Robotics," he said. "The skills and techniques that I've learned simply cannot be rivaled by anything taught in the standard classroom."

Participating in educational teacher workshops focused on biotechnology
To provide students with learning opportunities in science, Baxter realizes that educational opportunities for teachers are also essential. To help provide more such opportunities for teachers, Baxter recently partnered with Northwestern University's Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP) and the Biotechnology Center of Excellence (BCoE) at Lindblom Math and Science Academy to share scientific and teaching expertise, model lessons and resources with local teachers to help bring biotechnology into the classroom.  

In professional development workshops throughout this summer, teachers participated in hands-on labs at Northwestern and Lindblom and visited Baxter's labs at its Round Lake, Ill. facility. Teachers gained real-life context from both academic and commercial researchers, including Dr. Teresa Woodruff, a Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine professor of obstetrics and gynecology and Baxter Distinguished Scientist Barrett Rabinow, Ph.D.

One teacher commented in an evaluation, "I was impressed with the scope of the projects at Baxter. Scientists were eager to show us their labs, equipment and projects. They seemed really interested in how they could help us, and shared good suggestions for how to make connections to our classrooms."

Committed to education inside and outside of the classroom
Whether someone is participating in Baxter's internship program, FIRST, the workshops held by OSEP and BCoE, or in any of the company's in-classroom programs, such as Science@Work: Expanding Minds with Real-World Science, Junior Achievement or Street Law, Inc., Baxter's focus remains the same- providing a quality, well-rounded education while engaging and energizing students about the subjects they're learning about.

Kamen shares this goal and philosophy in his own work with FIRST. He explained, "What we're missing in America is not good educational systems, it's not good teachers, it's not good schools. What most of our kids are missing is the sense of how exciting, how rewarding, how accessible math and science really are if you put them in the right context."