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STEM-a-thons provide community outreach to schools

Students create projects with snap circuit kits during a STEM-a-thon hosted by the STEM Education Alliance.The W&M School of Education's STEM Education Alliance continues to be at the forefront of community engagement through its work with public schools. The team was recently awarded a $500,000 five-year grant to continue supporting students of military connected families in the Virginia Beach school system. In addition to working with administrators to develop a regional resource map of support for military families, the team will provide STEM-a-thons and STEM experiences to seven schools.

Designed as in-school field trips, STEM-a-thons incorporate job-embedded professional development for teachers and fun-filled, student-centered activities for students. STEM-a-thons focus on individually designed, theme-based activities that are specific to SOL content areas.

Over the next five years, project specialists Kelley Clark, Greg Marsh and Karen Hogue will collaborate with fifth grade teachers to guide more than 1,600 elementary students through “An Electrifying Day.” Students will learn how to make series and parallel circuits using wires, bulbs and batteries. In addition, they will build electromagnets, work with permanent magnets and conduct tests to identify insulators and conductors. To create important career and college connections, students will participate in “Lunch with an Engineer” where local engineers energize the student groups with facts about engineering careers and share their personal career pathways.

At the middle and high school level, over 3,000 students will participate in a variety of STEM experiences over the course of the grant. Examples of STEM experiences include a water filtration activity that allows students to create their own water filtration system and test the salinity of water and a roller coaster activity addressing kinetic and potential energy.