It’s midday at the Missouri State Capitol and the pizza line snakes around the third floor rotunda. A sure sign that it’s not business as usual in Jefferson City.
March 2 was STEM Day at the Capitol which drew nearly 50 exhibitors and many more students and educators. A smiling Elizabeth Petersen mans the STEMpact booth. The retired science teacher is a STEM Teacher Quality facilitator, supported by the Institute for School Partnership at Washington University in St. Louis.
Petersen is in her element as she excitedly talks to the students gathering around her as they tour the various booths.
“What causes them to be apart?” she asks a group handling Magnetic Match Rings.
“I don’t know,” comes the answer, “but it’s not gravity.”
Petersen then explains polarity and magnetism. “That’s inquiry. That’s discovery,” she exclaims, giving each student a chance to play with the magnets.
The annual STEM Day at the Capitol is sponsored by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The day celebrates the state’s growing math and science efforts, showcasing various school and student science projects and activities.
Petersen says it’s important to have a day at the Capitol dedicated to STEM, and showing the need for 21st century skills and their value in our society.
“It’s vital for legislators to understand that STEM is important on many levels, not just for education but for our economy,” she says. “Look at all of these organizations from across the state that turned out. It is so fun looking at the kids and adults. It’s a network of awesomeness!”
Some of the exhibitors lining the rotunda included Boeing, Watlow, Pfizer and AT&T.
STEMpact is funded by some of St. Louis’s leading corporations such as Monsanto, MilliporeSigma, and Emerson, as well as school districts and Washington University, and Petersen is always looking to add to the list. The more corporations that get involved the more access teachers get to STEMpact, she explains.
“I would love to see the STEM Teacher Quality program go statewide,” she says. “It’s a model program!”
March 2017 | by, Myra Lopez