Collaborating for the sake of science
Ten years ago, Hakan Armagan took part in the U.S. Department of Energy Academy Creating Teacher Scientists research program through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. As a part of that course, his mentors required all the teacher participants to develop a lesson as a result of their experience at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
“Instead of a lesson, why not develop a year-long course?” thought Armagan, and that nudge was all he needed to develop a high school course on nuclear science and energy. He began teaching the class that year with 16 students at Burke High School in Nebraska; ten years later, the course has grown to more than 70 students and qualifies for dual-enrollment college credit.
“I developed the course because I just could not do anything less,” says Armagan, who believes that he owes it to himself and his students to push them forward in accomplishing their dreams.
The course takes a collaborative approach to nuclear science and energy, looking at current issues and how those issues impact the world. Since he began teaching the class, he has been writing a textbook and is currently searching for a publisher.
“The goal of the book is to make a bridge between science and social studies, as energy issues impact us at every level,” says Armagan, who strives to encourage students to become critical, creative thinkers and problem solvers.
Seeing the strength of collaboration between students with varied skill sets, Armagan teamed up with one of the school’s English teachers to bring nuclear science students together with advanced English students to create a project focused on energy and environmental issues.
“My students bring the expertise in science and engineering while her students bring the critical writing and analysis aspects,” Armagan explains. In 2017, they were awarded the prestigious Western Literature Association Teaching Award for this collaborative teaching approach and unit plan.
“The most important message that I hope to pass on to all of my students is for them to develop a passion for lifelong learning,” Armagan says. As he shares his passion with students, Armagan hopes they are inspired to pursue a career they love and to find ways to incorporate science into that path.
“Amazingly, students come back to see me years later to tell me all the things they have been doing to make their world more sustainable since they graduated from high school,” he recalls.