KOKOMO, Ind. – Nearly 450 elementary students and their families examined water samples under microscopes, viewed the stars on a big screen, and learned what it’s like to live and work in a space station.
The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math event at Indiana University Kokomo, funded with a $20,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, provided hands-on activities for children from Kokomo’s Elwood Haynes and Boulevard elementary schools.
“The goal was to show the real-world everyday relevance of science and math and engineering,” said Leah Nellis, dean of the School of Education. “It’s also to show how simple household items can be used at home to continue to learn and engage in STEM related activities.
Families with their children, preschool through fifth grade, rotated through stations provided by the WonderLab Museum of Science, Health & Technology in Bloomington and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The hands-on activities included a space lab simulator, performing experiments in the microbiology lab, and learning about astronomy.
“We wanted them to discover how STEM disciplines are part of their normal lives, and the kinds of things they can do in those fields for careers as they get older,” Nellis said, adding that the opportunity to learn through play is invaluable.
The learning will extend back into their classrooms, she said, because many teachers attended and gained new ideas.
“What they learned from the STEM night can arm teachers with new materials and techniques to enrich what they do in their classrooms, which benefits every student,” she said.
Both schools hosted their own STEM family night during the school year, leading up to the culminating event at IU Kokomo. The evening featured stations with science-based activities for parents to engage in with their children.
In addition to the high-quality museum exhibits, Nellis said, more than 80 volunteers, including faculty, staff, and School of Education students, led simple experiments using items families may access easily, to encourage them to experiment at home.
Besides funding the STEM night, the Duke Foundation grant also provided small door prizes for each child attending, as well as STEM activity kits given away in drawings. Teachers also received classroom materials funded through the grant.
“We appreciate the Duke Energy Foundation’s desire to support STEM-related learning, and to connect elementary children and their families into STEM-learning activities,” said Nellis. “The funding will increase and boost what these schools are doing related to STEM education. Together, we are impacting the education offered there.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.