STEM Day challenges elementary students

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Cully Gingras likes the creative process.

The 7-year-old from Stantonsburg Elementary School was one of 210 children in kindergarten through fifth-grade to participated in STEM Day last week.

“This has been my favorite day of school from last year. I have really, really loved it,” Cully said as he and a team of other students worked on a tower made of cardboard. “Plus, it has all of my favorite categories — science technology, engineering and math. That’s what I will need to become my dream job, an engineer when I grow up. I have been practicing engineering with Legos, and it’s just where I get to design anything in my own special way.”

Cully’s teacher, Amy Aycock, said the projects are beneficial to his and other students’ development.

“It just fosters his knowledge and motivation to want to continue in STEM projects and in learning in a STEM way,” Aycock said.

Aycock’s first- and second-grade students get to learn how to work as a team.

“It allows students the opportunity not only to work with others and collaborate but to use manipulatives to problem-solve and to have some higher order thinking skills in a way that is varied,” Aycock said.

Arlinda Summerlin, academic and intellectually gifted specialist at Stantonsburg Elementary and New Hope Elementary schools, said teaching STEM gives students an important leg up on the future.

“We want to make sure that they have access to these types of events,” Summerlin said. “This is a Title 1 school, and we want to make sure that they get access to everything that every other school student would have access to.”

Summerlin has been talking about the engineering design process in her classes leading up to the STEM Day.

“We have also talked about STEM and what it stands for and the types of engineering careers that they can do through these activities,” Summerlin said.

Summerlin has organized STEM activities in her classroom for the last six years.

“In my classroom we have done a balloon car, marble ramps, Nano bug maze and towers,” Summerlin said.

On Wednesday, students worked on foil boats, diaper dissection, marshmallow towers, tumbling towers, Lego communication, catapult, extreme roller coast and straw rockets.

“To me, this is where everything is going,” Summerlin said.

Summerlin has taken her students on a field trip to tour the Wilson Academy of Applied Technology to show them the possibilities.

“I want them to see that there is a lot more out there than this little area that they live in,” Summerlin said. “‘I can be this. I can be that.’ It’s about the students. I want them to get everything they can get while they are here.”

Summerlin said the students love STEM Day.

“They are excited. You can hear it in their voices, and you can watch when they are actually doing something,” Summerlin said. “We teach them that even when they fail, it’s OK because engineers fail all the time.

“They keep working at it. We went through the engineering design process, which is ‘Ask, imagine, plan, create and improve.’ We have gone through each one of those steps with each one of our activities. By doing that, they learn that it is OK if they fail at this. They can keep improving it to make it better. That’s what engineers do. That’s what everybody has to do. If you fail now, you can always get it better and better as you go along.”