January 27, 2021

Xplorlabs Wraps Up Second Year of Teacher Ambassadors Program

Teachers are trained on UL Xplorlabs: Fire Forensics

Xplorlabs resources link safety science research with foundational STEM concepts. These resources—including comprehensive modules and lab activities—are designed to bring the expertise of Underwriters Laboratories’ eminent scientists and researchers to a broader audience. For the past two years, an elite group of educators has helped to advance this mission.

In 2018, Xplorlabs launched the Xplorlabs/Future City Teacher Ambassadors program. This program was created jointly with DiscoverE Future City, a partner organization that advances quality STEM education through innovative and rigorous project-based learning.

In their roles as Ambassadors, the educators commit to using Xplorlabs resources in their classrooms. They also promote the resources with their peers. Ambassadors speak to other educators about their experience using Xplorlabs at conferences and webinars. Ambassadors were selected to present in the Science and Practice of Xplorlabs webinar series this year, providing examples of how they implemented the materials in a variety of classroom settings and answering questions from fellow educators in the audience.

“When I implemented the program in my classroom, I opened with the phenomena of pyrolysis that hooked me, and the engagement was immediate,” wrote Teacher Ambassador Megan O’Keeffe in a blog post. “Students were genuinely excited that I was allowing them to light a candle and when they saw a ‘new’ trick from such a common experience they were craving more. We used this as a launching point for the first section of the module called ‘The Investigators Academy: What is fire,’ as well as a claims, evidence, and reasoning (C.E.R.) assignment on whether fire is a physical or chemical change.”

In October 2019, the Office of Research Experiences and Education (OREE), the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) and the Howard County Fire Department in Maryland jointly hosted a training summit for both cohorts of Ambassadors. During this summit, the Ambassadors gained firsthand instruction and scientific context from the experts behind the “Xplorlabs: Fire Forensics” module.

Due to their credentials and unique insight, the Teacher Ambassadors preview select educational resources from the Education and Outreach team and review them from an educational perspective. The Education and Outreach team incorporates this feedback to make their learning materials more accessible and usable for students and teachers alike.

Xplorlabs is already a strong partnership. It is founded on collaboration between the communicators of the Education and Outreach team and the scientists, researchers and engineers of Underwriters Laboratories. With the added expertise of the Teacher Ambassadors, this partnership has grown even stronger.

UL XplorLabs modules encourage students to use scientific inquiry to engage with new topics – inspiring them to think like a scientist, learn about and explain real-world phenomena, and analyze and extend results.