By: Alicia Sands Lurry
“Can anybody tell me what ‘S’ stands for?” shouts Keisha Gibbons, assistant principal of E. Rivers Elementary School, quickly capturing the attention of hundreds of giddy students who were gathered in the school’s gymnasium last week.
“Science!” they shout back, as their voices boomed, filling the room.
“What about ‘T’? “Technology!” they continue. “E is for Engineering! A is for Arts! M is for Math!”
E. Rivers students could hardly contain their excitement as they anxiously waited to participate in their school’s third annual STEAM Day on Thursday, April 28. Featuring more than 20 metro Atlanta community partners and organizations, the day was designed to highlight and expose students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade to careers in science, engineering, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
Throughout the day, students took turns learning everything from architecture and drones, to watching ballet performances, programming robots, and extracting DNA from strawberries.
STEAM Day began with mini performances by Atlanta Ballet Theatre dancers, followed by sessions on drones; the role of pollinators as taught by guests from the National Wildlife Federation; a tour of a portable planetarium; and a demonstration of Google Expeditions, a virtual reality teaching simulation. Presenters included representatives from the Chattahoochee Nature Center, Atlanta Recycling, Compost Wheels, Emory Biology, the High Museum, Trees Atlanta, and the U.S. Green Council, among others.
Of all the activities fifth grader Hannah Kauffman participated in, robotics the most enjoyable. Using an iPad app, Kauffman and other students learned to program small, ball-sized robots to move from one square to another.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “I learned there are a lot of cool things you can do.”
“I liked programming the robot,” said Dennis Young, Hannah’s classmate,. “There was a lot of trial and error, which made everything fun. You fail and try again.”
For third grader Kellise Johnson, the highlight was learning how to extract DNA from a strawberry. Using materials such as a strawberry, Ziploc bag, small and large tubes and rubbing alcohol, Kellise and her classmates looked more like pint-sized biologists as they were guided through the exercise to break apart strawberry cells and extract the DNA found within.
“It’s messy and fun,” a giggling Kellise said, as she lifted the strawberry’s membrane.
Principal Matt Rogers was delighted that STEAM Day had such an impact on students.
“This helps kids see the variety of careers they can connect with in different fields,” Rogers said. “We see this as a fun academic field day to get kids excited about learning.”