Elementary students discover STEM subjects at John Brown University
Students from Southside Elementary School and John Brown University got a chance to learn from each other during Discovery Day on Monday.
Fourth-grade students spent the afternoon at the university, touring the campus and doing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related activities such as looking for water organisms under a microscope, getting a peek at the NASA robot and experiencing an earthquake on the university’s shake table. Meanwhile, elementary education majors got a chance to sharpen their teaching skills by leading young students in handson science experiments.
Discovery Day was a collaborative project between the elementary education department and the science and engineering departments, said Kim Murie,
an assistant professor for the department of teacher education.
Elementary school students visited the Balzer Technology Center and Bell Science Hall where engineering, chemistry and biology professors led them in activities. Then the young students visited Simmons Great Hall where elementary education majors set up a mini-science fair and led the fourth-graders in hands-on science lessons.
“It’s always fun to get out of the classroom and learn in a different way,” said fourth-grade teacher Julie McCratic.
Fourth-grade science teacher Beth Brown said the best thing about Discovery Day was seeing how excited her all girls class was about science and experiencing new things. There is a lack of women in STEM fields, and Brown is hopeful the Discovery Day will help ignite interest in her students.
“Maybe this generation of girls will change that,” Brown said.
Many of Brown’s students may not have conversations at home about going to college, so the trip to JBU helps broaden their horizons and increase their expectations, she said.
“It’s good for them to get on a college campus and see how fun college can be,” she said.
The experience was the first time many education majors led children in lessons, and they had to practice holding students’ attention and engaging them, Murie said.
Audrey Mathe, a freshman elementary education major, was leading students in an experiment that demonstrated the way blubber protects Arctic animals from the cold. She was participating in the project as part of her elementary science content class.
Students plunged their bare hands into a tub of ice-water and felt the cold, then put on a “blubber glove” made of two plastic baggies with Crisco stuffed in between the layers of plastic and stuck their hands in the water a second time. Students found the layer of fat almost completely protected their hands from feeling the cold.
Mathe said the experience was her first time to formally teach a lesson and direct an activity. She said it was interesting to learn how to prepare a lesson that engages students and sparks their interest.
“It was great to engage with them and see them get excited about learning,” she said.
Debra Bias, a fourth-grade student at Southside Elementary, looked through a microscope at water from Sager Creek, searching for the organisms displayed on the screen behind her. The activity was part of Discovery Day at John Brown University.
Susan Newton, a chemistry professor at John Brown University, demonstrated the way different elements create different colored flames when they burn to fourth-grade students.