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Locals to help teachers in Qatar

BELLWOOD – Alice Flarend believes learning is a lifelong experience.

Flarend sees her upcoming trip to Doha, Qatar, as both a learning and teaching experience.

Flarend, who is a physics, energy and environment teacher at Bellwood-Antis High School, her husband Richard, an associate professor of physics, mathematics and natural sciences at Penn State Altoona, and former Penn State Altoona associate professor of special education Barbara Hong, who is now an international education consultant for the State Department, will leave Nov. 20 for a weeklong trip to Qatar to facilitate science professional development with high school teachers centered on hands-on science activities.

Both Flarends are excited about the upcoming trip.

“I am excited both for the things I can learn and the things we will teach the teachers over there. It will be a two-way learning experience,” Alice Flarend said. “The purpose is to teach teachers a better way to teach science including special education students. We will do several programs every day.”

“I’ve done this sort of science outreach in the U.S. many times before, but being able to do this as a representative of my country in Qatar is great,” Richard Flarend said.

The focus will be on hands-on activities.

“We are inviting students and their families to come. (Richard) will be doing what he does here, things like the rocket car program. Doing things hands-on makes it more interesting,” Alice Flarend said. “The teachers will learn how to teach students better. We are interested in helping the students. The teachers will teach better because they are learning different skills.”

“We are going to engage with the young teenagers and get them excited about science. I’m going to show how science can be educational, interactive and fun. There is so often a misunderstanding that educational activities can’t be fun or interactive, and that misconception is what we hope to dispel,” Richard Flarend said.

The trip is being funded primarily through the Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries.

Bellwood-Antis School District officials are treating the trip like a workshop, Alice Flarend said.

“I can learn some of their energy and environmental issues. That will help me put natural gas issues in a different light. I will be teaching and learning at the same time,” Alice Flarend said. The trip will also be beneficial to Bellwood-Antis students.

“We saw it as a professional development opportunity, and she could bring her experience back to the classroom. Anytime a teacher can get a real life experience outside of Bellwood and bring back a global experience to the kids, it will benefit the kids in the classroom,” said Lisa Hartsock, former high school principal.

“I will learn more about their energy system. They are a huge producer of natural gas. I will learn about their production, how they go about it and face environmental problems with their production. I also will learn more about teaching from their perspective and may learn some ways to reach our students,” Alice Flarend said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.