STEM festival educates young learners
WYE MILLS — The second annual Mid-Shore STEM Festival was held Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Eastern Shore Higher Education Center on the Chesapeake College campus in Wye Mills. The event was provided free to the public.
Hosted by the University of Maryland Extension 4-H Program, the festival focused on providing hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math learning for youth of all ages and their families. Activities included: interactive displays and stations, tours, and demonstrations. Youth had the opportunity to learn about forensic science, recycling and environmental topics, entomology, wildlife ecology, art, electricity and circuits, insects, and GIS/ computer mapping, and also greet a search and rescue dog. Tours of Chesapeake College including an experience with some of the health care simulation technologies and equipment were also offered by paramedic David Timms.
Navone Owen, Caroline County 4-H coordinator said they were pleased with the attendance of over 150 elementary aged students from Dorchester, Caroline, Talbot, and Queen Anne’s counties, and Sussex County, Delaware.
Returning for the second year with the program offered at Chesapeake College, Owen said the MidShore counties were hoping to find a way to participate in the statewide STEM initiative. Through 10 days of collaborative, interactive, and dynamic events and activities held throughout the state, the Maryland STEM Festival provides inspirational, educational and accessible programming in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). One of the goals of the festival is to provide STEM opportunities to all of Mar yland without requiring them to travel significant distances. Owen said there was a program in place on the Lower Shore at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, but that distance remained a significant travel for Mid-Shore residents.
With the assistance of 4-H coordinators in the surrounding counties and the help of Talbot 4-H volunteer Debi Urry, who is in charge of the Higher Education building at the college, Owen said they were able to secure a location they hoped would be accessible to many.
Additions to this years program included STEM activities for younger audiences (preschool and early elementary age) provided by the early childhood education department, led by Dr. Sarah Ross, and demonstrations from the Mason Dixon Search Dogs Inc.
Ross led interactive stations such as butter making — a multi-sensory experience, a station to construct an evergreen tree from popsicle sticks and play dough that helps build engineering skills and problem solving, and a volcano station, a big hit with the young participants, she said. Students from Ross’ early childhood education classes helped lead the stations and based on the positive feedback and interest, she hopes to add more activities for next year, she said.
Older students were encouraged to learn about bee colonies, fingerprinting, and electrical circuits through interactive stations led by 4- H and extension ser vice volunteers. The GIS mapping was a favorite of seventh-graders Will Johnson and Danny Barrett from Caroline County.
Several parents commented on how well advertised the event was, with fliers being sent home with students from school. This too was a change for 2018, said Navone.
In addition to the daylong event at Chesapeake College other programs were offered during the beginning of November. In Caroline County, Adkins Arboretum hosted Green Roofs for a Greener Earth, Blackwater Refuge in Dorchester hosted Journey to Capricorn: Sunsets adventure; the libraries in Queen Anne’s showcased seven different STEM projects; and Talbot public libraries in partnership with the Chesapeake Maritime Museum and Philips Wharf offered STEM programs as well.
In 2017, the statewide festival saw more than 570 separate events hosted in 23 counties and Baltimore City. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math related resources, professionals and activities are sprouting up all over, and the festival serves as a central hub for those events and resources to be highlighted all over the state, said festival coordinators.
Jacob Groller, a student at Preston Elementary, explores fossils with Brad Hartle from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
Molly, Mark and Claire Heinsohn from Denton explore this station on birds at the STEM festival.
Bee colonies and the importance of pollinators was one exhibit at the STEM festival on Saturday, Nov. 10.
At the STEM Festival held at Chesapeake College, students are introduced to entomology — the scientific study of insects, a branch of zoology.