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Colleagues Inspire Future Engineers and Scientists
(George Sienkiewicz, Senior Manager, Global Manufacturing Services, (l.), and Kris Dermody, Director, Global Manufacturing Services, (r.), explain the importance of
blend uniformity in pharmaceutical manufacturing.)
For a group of Pfizer colleagues, teaching sixth-grade students about pharmaceutical manufacturing was as much a learning experience for the colleagues as it was for the students.
Thanks to Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization which partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for low-income children across the U.S., 11 Pfizer colleagues recently had an opportunity to bring science to life for a group of 25 sixth-grade students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. The students are from one of the most academically underperforming schools in Newark, New Jersey.
"These children are eager to learn when given the opportunity, despite their challenging circumstances," said Adam Schwab, Manager/Principal Scientist, Pfizer Global Supply, who organized the event.
Citizen Schools relies on local volunteers from business and industry to help improve student achievement by teaching skill-building apprenticeships after school. These real-world apprenticeships, combined with academic and leadership development activities, are aimed at better preparing middle-school students for success in high school and beyond.
Having Fun With Science
So how did the group teach the complexities of pharmaceutical manufacturing in a way that appeals to 12–to–14-year-old students? Candy, of course.
The Pfizer team came prepared with a workshop developed by Hanan Anwar, Senior Manager, Global Manufacturing Services, and Valentin Tarasenko, Director/Team Leader, Pfizer Global Engineering, which simulated the pharmaceutical manufacturing process by making candy. Students received their own lab coats and safety glasses, and Pfizer Consumer Healthcare provided mini-backpacks and notepads. The colleagues set up a series of five work stations, each representing a phase in the "pharmaceutical" manufacturing process. The processes culminated in the final output — converting sugar into candy tablets.
"This is the most engaged that I have seen children at this school yet this year," said Citizen Schools Civic Engagement Officer Jessica Fick.
The workshop was conducted in support of the Pfizer New Jersey VOL.UNTEERZ Network, an initiative designed to encourage colleague volunteerism in New Jersey communities.
In addition, the team plans to return to the school in the spring of 2012 to conduct a 10–week, in-depth program where volunteers will visit once weekly to teach the basic math and science behind the processes demonstrated during the initial workshop.
"By rotating colleagues throughout the 10 weeks, volunteers can continue their commitment to helping strengthen the students' science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, and hopefully inspire the next generation of pharmaceutical scientists and engineers," Schwab added.