Stepan Company Scientists Connect with CICS Scholars

CICS Wrightwood Scholars Dance for School Choice Week

CICS Northtown Academy Scholars Watch a Demonstration by a Stepan Scientist Before Completing Their Own In-Class Labs

In November 2015, CICS Northtown scholars were visited by scientists from Stepan, a local chemical manufacturing company. Through Stepan’s connection with Teach For America, the partnership provides what CICS Northtown teacher Jennifer Conant calls “an incredible opportunity for students to be exposed to professions that they know little about. Getting to see the real-life applications of chemistry (and math) also helps invest students in those classes and in learning content that can often seem very abstract.”

To kick off the two-day visit, staff and sophomore scholars attended an assembly with Stepan chemist Ron Masters. Mr. Masters spoke with the scholars about a new chemical, explaining the science behind how the solvent works to break down paint and other substances. After the assembly, the sophomore class discussed the possibility of using the solvent as part of a community service project to remove graffiti around the neighborhood.

During the next day, several Stepan scientists visited chemistry classes and worked with the scholars on experiments. Scholars were interested to see Stepan’s products in different applications—from household cleaners to microwavable foods.  “My favorite activity was the one where we created foam! It was cool watching it expand and form,” said Yanelle D., a CICS Northtown scholar. Shurook S., another scholar, added, “I loved talking to the scientists about the process of doing an experiment and what the end result would be.”

“I was very impressed with the CICS Northtown scholars,” said Bridget Weir, Stepan’s Technical Director, “the students were very engaged and they asked great questions. They were curious about the science behind the experiments.”

After working with the scholars, the Stepan scientists spoke about their own education and career paths. The scientists were very eager to share their knowledge and experiences.  “They are great ambassadors for Stepan and for science. They firmly believe in their chosen profession and want to help spark that same passion in the next generation of student scientists. There is something quite thrilling about sharing your love for your field with others and seeing them enjoy it,” remarked Ms. Weir. John Paul A., a scholar who spoke with the Stepan scientists, said, “I’m interested in becoming an astronomer and… [when] they talked about the steps they took to get to where they are, [it] helped me plan out what I should do.”

Program coordinators at Stepan and Teach For America along with CICS Northtown teachers Jennifer Conant and Danielle Duran (TFA-Chicago 2012 alumni) are working now on plans for a Stepan Shadow Day. “We're excited to develop our spring program, where a smaller group of students who are really interested in studying science and/or math in the future get to go to Stepan and see the labs and equipment.  We think they will love seeing what Stepan employees do day-to-day, whether they’re in the lab, in a business office, or working on data analysis,” said Ms. Conant.

“I was very [impressed] by how Stepan operated.  I am convinced that science is a path for me,” said CICS Northtown scholar Armani C. “Talking to the Stepan scientists showed me that anything is possible with enough hard work.”