by Sarah Grosvenor
If you walked through the halls of the UNH STEM Discovery Lab in July, you might have heard some unique sounds. Duct tape torn from the roll, clattering blocks, whirring fans, snapping mousetraps and a rumbling earthquake simulator. And above it all, clapping, cheering and screeches of delight from a room full of excited youth.
These were the sounds of the STEM Discovery Lab’s summer camp programs. Throughout July, we hosted eight programs in the lab and out in the community. These programs reached more than 80 youth of all ages and ethnicities from around Manchester. Joining the youth were two UNH Manchester interns or teaching fellows and four seasoned educators.
It was a month of discovery, as youth explored STEM principles through a variety of activities. In one session, participants experienced the power of wind by creating sails, turbines, anemometers and kites. Another program saw youth designing and testing rollercoasters, with their creations climbing the walls and towering over chairs. Some campers built cardboard structures and tested how much weight they could support – one held 165 pounds!
The sessions guided campers through the engineering design process, a cyclical approach that involves investigating and imagining solutions to a problem and then planning, creating, testing and improving those solutions. Outside the lab, our two teaching interns dedicated their time to working with two local organizations, Manchester Police Athletic League and the 21st Century Community Leaning Centers, in providing rich STEM experiences for youth participating in those programs. We also left the comfort of our beloved city of Manchester and conducted field investigations about stream ecology in Candia.
For me, one of the biggest impacts was seeing our two teaching fellows working tirelessly all summer to engage youth in STEM. They were the backbone of the programs and ensured that all the details were taken care of, along with learning about educational pedagogy, inquiry and STEM content. The lab couldn’t have managed without them. Seeing someone inspired and encouraged to educate youth is always the most rewarding part of my job.
It was a busy summer and we are all recovering! However, our recovery doesn’t last long, as we are only weeks away from our school-year programming. We will be hiring four more teaching fellows, two more certified teachers, and will continue building our partnerships with community organizations to design and implement enriching STEM programming. Our fall programs promise to be full of excitement – and the sounds of delighted youth engaging in STEM learning.
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