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Teaching children well

Young students work with string and cups.

The first edition of the STEM Cubs Summer Camp took place on July 8 at the University of Missouri. Participants had the opportunity to work on engaging hands-on activities, including designing a skateboard ramp, building string phones and developing methods to help small animals safely cross the street. Photo by Amy Parris.

Fostering engagement in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at a young age is key to eventually creating professionals in those fields.

The University of Missouri College of Engineering, School of Information Science and Learning Technologies and the Office of Inclusivity, Diversity and Outreach put together a successful pilot program to engage students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

“We know from research that students tend to disengage from STEM as early as third grade, so it was important to host a camp that would pique their interest while in K-5,” said Tojan Rahhal, Director of Diversity and Outreach Initiatives in the College of Engineering.

The first edition of the STEM Cubs Summer Camp took place on July 8 at the University of Missouri. Participants had the opportunity to work on engaging hands-on activities, including designing a skateboard ramp, building string phones and developing methods to help small animals safely cross the street.

Sessions were led by Johannes Strobel, Professor in the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies, whose areas of expertise include integrated STEM education and assessment and evaluation of STEM education.

The event was hosted by Rahhal, Strobel and Alyssa Liles-Amponsah, Associate Director for K-12 Access and Leadership Development in the Office of Inclusivity, Diversity and Outreach. Additional funding was provided by MU Extension and the ETA Hand2Mind program, which helps educators with hands-on learning opportunities.

A total of 60 participants were selected from a pool of 200 interested applicants for the two half-day sessions. The camp received great interest from traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM, with girls making up half the attendees and traditionally underrepresented minorities totaling 40 percent.

Some of the highlights, according to the campers, were:

  • “the first part when we did the surface and level with Ron the armadillo” – Student in Camp 1, Grades K-2
  • “my favorite part of camp was using the tuning forks in water” – Student in Camp 1, Grades 3-5
  • “DANCE PARTY (breaks)!” – Student in Camp 2, Grades 3-5.

Based on the great success of this pilot, The College of Engineering plans to continue this collaboration to support access to STEM programing and host more STEM Cub camps throughout the year.