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STEM-ulating: Expo draws 4th graders to science, math

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, November 2, 2013

More than 600 area fourth graders stormed Weatherford College Wise County on Wednesday to make butter, give Mr. Potato Head eyes and launch tennis balls.

Such activities were among the 34 stations in the STEMania event hosted by the college.

Twisting Math

TWISTING MATH – Alvord Elementary fourth graders Chad Bradford, Nohemi Lara and Seguin Hernandez play Twister in an activity organized by the Weatherford College Wise County math department at STEMania Wednesday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Organized by Dr. Lisa Welch, WCWC biological sciences instructor, the fair exposed prime students to all facets of science, technology, engineering and math.

“Fourth graders are easy to impress,” Dr. Welch said. “Beyond fourth grade, science and math get a little more difficult, and that’s usually when they start deciding they don’t like math and science. If students see they can do this and they have fun and succeed, it sticks with them.”

WCWC instructors and area businesses like JRob’s Performance Training, Lockheed Martin and VLK Architects (the firm that designed the WCWC building) presented activities on an array of topics including nutrition, the human psyche and migration.

WCWC students volunteered by guiding groups from station to station or conducting an actual activity.

“And they were just as excited as the fourth graders,” Dr. Welch said. “This is great for all involved.”

In the Fit or Fat station, students learned how foods affect our bodies and took part in a quick workout that included inchworms, jumping jacks, pushups and frog-to-rocket jumps.

In Gas Laws, students observed how far a tennis ball traveled when launched under different levels of air pressure.

“That was my favorite,” said Boyd fourth grader Ethan Stump. “It was fun to guess how far the ball could go each time.”

Students learned that calcium not only strengthens bones in the body but also regulates heartbeat, stops bleeding and transports signals through the body.

But not all sections of the fair were directly related to science.

“English and history instructors showed how their fields meshed with STEM,” Welch said. “I strongly believe that future jobs will be looking for people who can mesh two different areas.”

In Walking On Water, students learned how hunter-gatherers migrated to the Americas through the Bering Strait.

“This station proved to the kids not only by telling them and reiterating what’s learned in the classroom, but also by having them try the experiment on how this could have happened,” said Carson Elementary fourth-grade teacher Brooklyn Stapleton. “Each station that we rotated through had relevance toward what we study in fourth grade – that’s definitely what made it so fantastic. The whole experience kept the kids in constant motion, whether with their mind gaining interest or their body moving.

“And as any teacher knows, that’s an added plus … My only wish is that it would have been a full day so that students could have rotated through several more of the exciting activities.”

Fourth graders from Slidell, Alvord, Chico and Paradise attended from 9 to 11 a.m. while students from Decatur, Bridgeport and Boyd took part from noon to 2 p.m.

“All of the participants were highly impressed with how well the fourth graders got the concepts presented to them and how engaged they were,” Welch said.

Organizers hope to expand to include students from Prairie View and Seven Hills elementary schools in the Northwest ISD, Victory Christian Academy and the three school districts in Jack County.

“The whole experience was extremely meaningful, valuable, and highly engaging for the kiddos,” Stapleton said. “Matt Joiner and the staff at WC did a fabulous job of coordinating the event. I’m excited about future STEManias.”

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