Helping students learn to love all things scientific is Georgia Highlands College’s goal for STEM Day 2017.
The college’s Center for STEM Learning is hosting the second annual science, technology, engineering and mathematics event Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Allatoona Resource Center at 6505 Glade Road in Acworth for all kids in the community.
Students in kindergarten through 12th grade will participate in hands-on experiments that demonstrate changes in the states of matter using liquid nitrogen, an extremely low-temperature liquid, to quick-freeze objects and make instant ice cream; use Spheros and Ozobot smart-toy robots to let them code, play, create and connect the physical and digital worlds through technology; allow them to use their engineering skills to complete LEGO challenges and see a demonstration of LEGO robots; and test their math skills with mathematics puzzles and games.
“Last year, we did a small pilot event [at ARC], and it went well,” said Dr. Greg Ford, GHC’s academic dean and associate professor for the division of natural science and physical education. “The plan now is to make this an annual event and grow the participation each year. We hope to see kids come to this event every year and to spark an interest in science through discovery and interacting with our volunteers. We want to see kids in this community think about college as a real option and consider Georgia Highlands College to continue their education.”
Patrick Nelson, community redevelopment coordinator for Bartow County, said the ARC is “always looking for ways to bring fun and educational opportunities to the kids who come to the gym, and this allows us to do both.”
“We had a great response from the camp being here last year, and the kids get to take part in STEM activities and are exposed to GHC and all they have to offer,” he said. “So many in this area do not think about college even being an option for them so every chance we get, we like to bring in GHC and Chattahoochee Technical College and make sure that children and adults alike know about the incredible resources and opportunities these schools offer that are financially and educationally achievable for them.”
Ford — who plans the event with biology professor/CSL Director Sharryse Henderson and assistant math professor/CSL data analyst Camille Pace — wants to organize STEM Day each year as a way to recognize the “many great mentors who impacted my life” when he was growing up.
“As a resident of Bartow County, I am a member of this community, and I want to have a positive impact on as many lives as I can touch,” he said. “As a member of the science community, I understand the need for a well-educated, well-trained 21st century STEM workforce. Many jobs of the future will require some level of education beyond K-12. STEM jobs will be in demand in northwest Georgia and around the globe. As an educator, I want to prepare our kids for the high-paying, high-demand STEM jobs that will be available. Studies have shown that introducing kids to STEM at early ages while their brains are still developing gives them a strong academic foundation. Experiences like these give kids an opportunity to explore, discover and make a connection to science and the world around them.”
Nelson and Ford hope the kids learn several valuable lessons from attending STEM Day.
“The main thing is realizing that science, technology, engineering and math all have practical applications to real life and can be incredibly fun and engaging and lead to career paths that maybe they never thought of,” Nelson said. “Also hoping they realize that college is a realistic goal for them if they choose to work towards it, and there are all sorts of ways to help them succeed beyond high school.”
“I want kids to see that using and understanding science and technology is attainable,” Ford said. “We also want students to consider careers in science and technology. However, the STEM Day event is about the joy of discovery.”
The idea to do a one-day STEM program at the ARC sprang from a weeklong camp that GHC conducted last summer, according to Nelson.
“In talking with several of the faculty at GHC last year, we were discussing their main camp and the fact that not many kids from this area — south Bartow — attended,” he said. “So we decided to offer a shortened version of the camp here to see if we could build a following.”
Ford said 20 to 25 students and parents participated in the event during its pilot year, and “we would like to double that number this year.”
The first STEM Day was a big success, according to Nelson, who is hoping for 30 to 40 participants this year.
“GHC puts on an incredible camp and brings all types of fun activities that teach a lesson at the same time and allow the kids hands-on opportunities to play and work with all sorts of cool things,” he said. “Kids said that the Sphero robot races were fun. They also thought that it was cool to see how ice cream can be made with liquid nitrogen, and they enjoyed eating their creation. The kids were also fascinated to see a drone go so high that they could not see it.”
The moms and dads who attended also were impressed.
“Parents were amazed at how engaged their kids were, especially because many were coming for the feeding program and did not know we were there,” Nelson said. “They asked that we continue this event at the ARC.”
The volunteers from the college work hard to bring “a variety of activities that can include kids of all ages” to the center, Ford said.
“We also work with local teachers and school systems to include activities that can be tied to K-12 curriculum,” he said. “The goal is to provide both state-of-the-art technologies to engage participants and low-cost activities that students can do at home or teachers can take back to the classroom.”
In fact, educators are invited to attend the event to get new ideas for the upcoming year.
“We would also welcome teachers to come out and learn about some of the tools we have at the GHC Center for STEM Learning that can be incorporated into their classroom activities,” Ford said. “We would be happy to share resources with local teachers and schools.”
GHC also will have representatives from its accelerated adult evening program to provide information to adults who attend.
“They do a great job of having something for everyone,” Nelson said. “It is also really entertaining for adults to see all the activities, and they can also learn more about GHC and their adult learning opportunities.”
Ford said the “wonderful volunteers” from the college will include faculty, staff, administration, family members, students and members of the baseball and softball teams.
“I also bring my kids, Garrett and Olivia, who usually run stations at these events,” he said. “Students tend to want to participate more quickly if they see other kids doing the activities.”
Nelson said he and the ARC staff appreciate the work the college volunteers put into conducting STEM Day.
“We are so grateful for the amazing people at GHC and their willingness to take time to come down here and offer this and other opportunities for the youth in the area,” he said. “They always jump at every opportunity to give back and engage the community and are always looking for ways to improve what they do and making sure they are offering relevant and appropriate pathways to ensure their students are getting a top-quality education at an incredible value and that they come out of school with the knowledge and skills needed to take many of the top jobs we have available right here in our community.”
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