• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Offering ‘hands-on, fun science’ experiences to students

A partnership with the Kentucky Science Center means nearly 200 elementary-age students in Woodford County Public Schools are getting “hands-on, fun science” experiences this summer, district Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm said.

Our students are “doing science that is truly something that they get really pumped up to do. And we think that’s hugely beneficial to us down the road – not only next school year,” said Brehm, “but also five or 10 years down the road when these young (students) are getting into middle and high school and say, ‘Science and math are pretty cool.’”

He described extending STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) educational opportunities to more students as a focus area that will continue next school year with a new science curriculum in elementary schools.

“…We know that one of the big keys with STEM education and getting students interested in STEM professions is starting at a young age,” said Brehm. He described summer and after-school programs as an opportunity to nurture that interest beyond the typical school day. Educators with the Kentucky Science Center were teaching hands-on science at Simmons Elementary School last week. Its “School’s Out Science Camp” was open to children across Woodford County.

“The more I looked into that curriculum and what they were going to be able to do,” said Brehm, “the more we realized that we need to open this up to additional students” from all four of our elementary schools.

He credited the Woodford County Board of Education for its support in offering additional STEM learning opportunities this summer so every elementary student could participate.

“The board agreed to support that and fund that so it’s free to any Woodford kid,” said Brehm.

So for six Wednesdays in June and July, he said about 160 elementary students across the district were provided bus transportation to participate in hands-on science activities that were very similar to what about 35 students experienced at the School’s Out Science Camp last week.

Students in the Kentucky Science Center summer camp’s robotics class learned how to use sensors and motors to engineer movable Lego creations, including an alligator with a mouth that opens and closes.

“For me at the end of the week I hope that they just have a sense of wanting to go farther into learning science,” said science camp teacher William Coy. With all of the focus on language arts and mathematics during a typical school day, he described science camp as an opportunity to give students hands-on experiences in science, which “will hopefully spark that interest and keep them interested in doing (science) down the road.”

Other science camp students learned aspects of engineering while they built igloos, boats, bridges and straw houses designed to withstand the huff and the puff of the Big Bad Wolf – or in their hands-on experience, a hairdryer.

“That’s our number one thing is making sure our campers are having fun with science,” said camp manager Ashley Noble, a middle school teacher in Louisville.

“… So we’re trying to get to them (at a young age) so they get excited about science…”

According to the Kentucky Science Center, its Schools Out Science Camps are hands-on, interactive summer camps that engage students, ages 6 to 11, in Lego engineering and computer coding projects, with building and design challenges.

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