Burning potato chips to determine the number of calories they hold by measuring increases in temperature is the kind of science experiment that amazed the mind of Matthew Kirkhart, even if he had figured out the trick of it all faster than his fellow students at East Hall Middle School.
“It’s a very cool experiment,” the seventh-grader said. “I enjoyed sitting through it and being able to calculate the information with all of the food ... this would be perfect if you were just wondering how many calories is in this.”
This experiment was just one of 50 interactive sessions held for students on Wednesday, March 28, as part of the first ever STEaM Day, a kind of “field day” with a focus on science, technology, engineering, art and math projects.
Each student at East Hall Middle attended five of the 50 sessions based on a student survey that gauged their interests in the aforementioned subjects.
Jennifer Parker, the school’s media specialist, organized the event after learning about a similar exercise while attending a teacher conference last fall.
Local businesses such as Kubota Manufacturing, ZF Wind Power, Kroger and surveyors, for example, were brought in as partners to teach the students. And the day was made possible through a grant the school received from Clipper Petroleum.
“Community partners were absolutely essential,” Parker said.
So, too, were students from Riverside Military Academy’s national science honor society, who completed their required community service projects in the process.
“They are leading several of the science-type experiment sessions,” Parker said.
Other sessions included building structures made of uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows to simulate whether they could withstand an earthquake by placing the structures in a vat of Jell-O and shaking it to create the illusion of seismic waves. Some students worked to design a device to try to prevent an egg from cracking when dropped from a height of six feet or more.
But adding an art component to the typical STEM mix was critical to reach students who are more creatively inclined.
“We feel like there is a lot of art involved in different engineering, too,” Parker said. “We just wanted to incorporate the art side of it, also, because we really wanted to reach as many students in their passion area.”
Art sessions included everything from graphic design to music-making to pendulum painting.
Yahir Melgar, a sixth-grade student, said he wanted to paint because he had never done so before in his life.
So he filled red paint into a cup with a hole punched in the bottom and a string tied to the top edge, then let it swing over a canvas.
“This is obviously not going to end well,” Melgar joked.
But Amy Webb, his teacher overseeing the session, knelt and helped make it work for Melgar, pleased by what he created.
“This is fun and engaging,” she said.