Science STEM

Hazelwood inspires students in STEM

For one Saturday in January, Washington University students and faculty joined hands with a longtime school partner to bring a STEM Extravaganza to the Hazelwood community.

Rows of booths and tables lined the cafeteria of Hazelwood Central High School, as students of all ages explored what the community’s universities and businesses had to offer in terms of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). At one booth, faculty from the Institute for School Partnership connected with community members, engaging both students and parents in learning through playful games and crafts.

One of the STEM Extravaganza participants Paul Markovitz, a science educator at the Institute for School Partnership, said that events like this were very important because of the opportunities they could inspire students to pursue.

“We want to get parents and students to understand that science is a part of everyday life,” Markovitz said. “Spending the day with students making a paper helicopter or airplane can translate into an exciting challenge or even a career in the future.”

At the event, it was more than just university faculty that wanted to inspire the love of science in young learners. The K-12 Ambassadors, a group of Washington University students committed to connecting the university’s resources to needs in local schools, attended as well.

Senior Hansika Narayanan, a biochemistry and legal studies major, said that she was excited to not only engage with the kids but to be inspired herself.

Institute for School Partnership staff member Diane Pilla shows one student a specimen from the station’s live insect display.

“As science majors, we sometimes forget that science is fun,” Narayanan said. “It’s nice to do things with kids because it reminds me why I love science.”

While students walked the rows of booths inside, the MySci Investigation Station, a 37-foot sensory wonder, parked outside to take students on a scientific journey through woodland forests and limestone caves.

Supported by the Monsanto Fund, the Investigation Station allows students to get a hands-on look into the world of STEM.

Diane Pilla, the project coordinator for the Institute for School Partnership’s MySci Resource Center, walked kids through the station, posing questions along the way and encouraging them to think like scientists.

At the end of the afternoon, almost 800 community members made their way through the 100 booths and exhibits of the STEM Extravaganza. Matthew McClellan, the special areas curriculum coordinator for the Hazelwood School District and one of the event’s organizers, said that STEM is quickly becoming a frontrunner in career opportunities for students.

“This is not only a chance for our students to learn about what post-secondary and career opportunities are available to them in the STEM fields,” McClellan said, “but it is also Hazelwood’s opportunity to showcase to the community what we are doing to prepare our students and our dedication to prepare our students for the world of STEM.”

February 2015   |   by, Gennafer Barajas