Creative thinking, hands-on problem solving, critical reasoning—these are just some of the skills seventh and eighth grade students at Pearl City Middle School used on Wednesday, May 26. Staff from the University of Illinois Extension brought five different STEM activities for students to learn from. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. This curriculum gives students the opportunity to actively participate while learning. Together, with U of I Extension staff, students were separated into five smaller groups and rotated through completing the different STEM activities. These included making geodesic domes out of gumdrops and toothpicks; learning about hydroponic gardening and planting vegetable seeds; crafting robotic arms out of cardboard, string and straws; discovering ways to make plastic cup towers using only string and rubber bands to lift, move, and stack the cups; and studying how water moves up flower stems in the thirsty stem races.
“This was a really fun and challenging way to get students to think outside of the box,” says Brenda Heimann, Stephenson County 4-H and Youth Development Program Coordinator. “It was also really great to get back into the classroom and reach out to area youth. While a lot of the programming I do is centered around 4-H, it isn’t my only focus. Another vital role is working with school-age youth and educational programming, just like these STEM activities.”