LYNN — Local schools and childcare organizations turned their halls Thursday evening into science classrooms bustling with robots, goop experiments, and climate change demonstrations to prove that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) “is a very approachable topic.”
Lynn YMCA curriculum coordinator Hannah Glenshaw used those words to explain how 300 children who spend time after school in the Y’s Neptune Boulevard facility learn about STEM through fun-filled experiments including earthquake buckets and cardboard boats.
Once a topic reserved for students who demonstrated aptitude in the sciences or an interest in math and engineering, STEM has exploded into a central curriculum topic in Lynn Public Schools and other school districts.
Grasping how STEM components play a role in almost every aspect of living is a crucial concept students must learn and build on as they transition from school to work, said St. Mary’s High School assistant principal for technology integration Artie Gribbins.
“Education is all about hands-on. We live in an innovation economy,” he said.
The Lynn Education District, a collaboration among Lynn Public Schools, the Knowledge Is Power Program Academy (KIPP), and St. Mary’s High School, as well as the YMCA, North Shore Community College, Boys and Girls Club, Greater Lynn Chamber of Commerce, Lynn Economic Opportunity, Girls Inc., Raw Arts, and Salem State University, latched onto STEM as a priority interest late in 2018.
Initial discussions led to meetings with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, a STEM advocate who enthusiastically lent her support to Thursday’s STEM fair. She reinforced her interest in the Lynn initiative Wednesday with a visit to KIPP.
“She was over-the-top enthusiastic about the passion of the participants and the collaborative effort. When she left, she said the integration of different activities exceeded her fondest expectations,” said District board member Joel Abramson, owner of Flagship Travel in Marblehead.
Most of the District participating members are located within a small area bound by Lynn Common, Neptune Boulevard and Summer Street. STEM fair-goers walked from one location to another to sample experiments and view demonstrations.
Andry and Juan Gonzalez brought daughter, Alana, 3, to the YMCA, where the preschooler enjoyed the slime station and other fun-oriented experiments. Andry Gonzalez said she had never heard about STEM before reading a flyer for the fair. But her visit to the Y convinced her STEM could be an open door leading to many future interest areas for her daughter.
Aviana Runner, 6, built a miniature boat out of cardboard and pieces of plastic swimming pool noodles. Boat builders successfully sailed their vessels in the YMCA pool as Curtis M. Wood, secretary of the state office of technology services and security, watched.
“It’s great to see young people energized in areas where we all need to learn,” Wood said.
He said the STEM fair can be followed up with professional visits by STEM company representatives to Lynn schools and successful applications for education-oriented technology grants linking schools and businesses.
The Lynn Vocational Technical Institute’s annex main hallway featured paper helicopter and miniature bridge building demonstrations and a model showing how Lynn’s low-lying areas have trouble soaking up flood water.
Jennifer Ciampi teaches early childhood education at Tech and said STEM boils down to learning about cause and effect and how understanding how natural and human-built creations work.
“It’s about prompting innovation,” she said.
General Electric engineers helped advise St. Mary’s juniors Domenic Amore and Chris Rincon on how to build robots. “Clementine,” the robotics club’s latest creation, zipped through a waste paper basket obstacle course Thursday night.
The STEM fair also included drone demonstrations at North Shore Community College’s Lynn campus, a “fizzy rainbow” experiment hosted by Lynn Economic Opportunity teachers, hands-on marine science demonstrations by long-time STEM proponent Girls Inc. and “clean tech” activities at the Boys and Girls Club.