April 9, 2012
About 150 students from Streator's Northlawn Junior High, Dimmick School, and Marseilles Elementary School visited U.S. Silica for hands-on research for their latest assignment — identifying solutions to implement the company's sustainability initiative.
Students toured the facility and learned about the plant's history, operations and product use and touched on local geology, ecology and chemistry lessons along the way.
These schools and four others are participating in a new Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy program that partnered with U.S. Silica and challenged students in grades four to eight to solve real-life business problems.
Beginning last year, participating teachers used U.S. Silica's sustainability initiative to develop a curriculum where students designed unique approaches for the company to consider as it looks to ensure sustainable practices at its Ottawa facility.
Northlawn seventh-grade science teacher Missy Brown brought about 90 students. Her students are researching creative solutions like wind turbines, recycling and water conservation and also developing the strategies needed to implement them. Other classrooms might use math, logic and language skills to research their strategy.
"The partnership with IMSA is a perfect opportunity to engage area students with the work we do each and every day, while also getting their fresh perspective and new ideas," said U.S. Silica Ottawa Plant Manager Jon Sheridan. "This project is a great match with the science and engineering work of our employees and together withIMSA we can really engage in innovative ideas to ensure a sustainable operation."
IMSA has trained teachers from seven schools throughout La Salle County who will work with students on how U.S. Silica can ensure a sustainable operation. In addition to Northlawn, participating schools include Marseilles Elementary, Holy Family in Oglesby, Dimmick in La Salle, John F. Kennedy in Spring Valley and Waltham Elementary in Utica.
The topic ties in well with U.S. Silica's recently unveiled sustainability initiative, which outlines goals to ensure a stable business model, invest in local communities and maintain environmental stewardship throughout the company's 13 facilities around the country. Among the goals are reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving employee safety and building environmental best practices. U.S. Silica is one of the only in its industry to have a dedicated sustainability program.