BMS Center participates in elementary school STEM Day

BMS faculty teach at elementary school
Justin Kile, associate dean of Engineering, speaks with Pond Hill Elementary School students as part of STEM Day.

June 20, 2013 - Sarah Berke reached deep into a brown paper bag, promising a group of Pond Hill Elementary School third-graders that it contained an amazing piece of technology.

"A doughnut?" one student guessed.

While Berke acknowledged that doughnuts are pretty amazing, she pulled out a green crayon.

"Technologies are objects or something created to make our lives easier," Berke explained.

With that, she divided the students into groups of five and gave each group its own brown bag containing different objects.

"We hope that the students learn that technology is more than their iPad, iPhone or TV," she said as the students discovered items ranging from stethoscopes to sticky notes. "We hope to get them excited about science."

Berke represented Quinnipiac's Bristol-Myers Squibb Center for Science Teaching and Learning at the Wallingford school's STEM Day on June 19. Justin Kile, associate dean of Engineering at Quinnipiac, and senior biochemistry major Dennis Ampadu joined Berke in a day that centered on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

"We hope to teach the students that technology is interesting and fun and that engineering and problem solving is interesting and fun," Kile said. "The ultimate goal is to keep them interested in STEM-type fields.  It's nice to be with young kids to see what they're learning and doing and to be inspired by their creativity. As engineers, we often overthink problems. To see someone take a very basic approach is kind of interesting."

In addition to the "technology in a bag" exercise, in which students answered various questions about the use and makeup of their objects, the working groups also collaborated to build towers out of marshmallows, string, tape and uncooked spaghetti.

"Ask, imagine, plan, create and improve," Berke bellowed. "And you cannot eat the marshmallows at the end."

Pond Hill fifth-grade teacher Chris Stone was instrumental in organizing STEM Day. The event included a marine life touch tank, rock and mineral exhibits and water-bottle rockets. Berke, Kile and Ampadu directed hands-on technology and engineering workshops for seven classes totaling about 130 third-graders.

"It's great to have Quinnipiac as a partner in the community to really lend expertise in a variety of ways," said Stone.

Pond Hill Principal Richard Pizzonia added that his school often works with students from Quinnipiac's QU Future Teachers Organization.

"There is a strong tie between the Wallingford school district and Quinnipiac," he said. Ampadu, who is working as a program assistant with the Bristol-Myers Squibb Center for Science Teaching and Learning this summer, is considering a career in education.

"The kids have a lot of ideas that I wouldn't even think of at my age," he said.