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South Jordan Journal

STEM Fest: One great big education party for South Jordan Elementary sixth-graders

Dec 10, 2019 02:37PM ● By Julie Slama

South Jordan Elementary students learn about underwater remote-operated vehicles at STEM Fest. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

South Jordan Elementary sixth grader Lincoln Mills said he loved the pressure experiment he tried as he learned about how scientists drill oil, then looked at a space exhibit with his classmates Owen Jefferies, Drew McClement and Copper Hale.

“I like how people live in space,” Owen said. “It’s really cool to dream about maybe working for NASA.”

Nearby, a second South Jordan Elementary group was checking out virtual reality, a remote-controlled car, solar panels, how air conditioning works and the STEM Action Center bus at the annual STEM Fest.

“When the water holds energy, it bubbles and separates the hydrogen and oxygen; I’ve always been interested in energy,” said the want-to-be surgeon Analynn Solano, who was with her sixth grade classmates Aryn Weaver, Ellyse Staley, Brandi Vehikite, Mary Skarda and Morgan Walbeck, who added, “It’s fun getting to learn new things we haven’t seen before.” 

STEM Fest is an event which attracts up to 20,000 sixth through 10th grade students, who become engaged in the 500 activities, exhibits and demonstrations focused on science, technology, engineering and math. While the event may lure students into potential future jobs in one of the 50 corporations from across Utah who staff booths, organizers say it’s also meant to be a fun way for students to gain hands-on experiences that will spark their imaginations and make connections with educators and innovators and see how every day learning is applied to real life.

Sixth grade teacher Bonnie Crockett helped lead the 120 South Jordan students to the event.

“We like that kids get a lot of experiences from these sessions and try things that we don’t have the means to facilitate,” she said. “They’re creatively thinking and learning all different sciences, some that aren’t in our core curriculum.”

Some of those different fields may be learning about drug testing, something student Jordyn Farr found “it may be what I want to do as a career.” Classmate William Minnick learned what Rocky Mountain Power does when the power goes out, while Amelia Le Jeune took an interest in UV light. Sixth grader Olivia Dekle took part in an infectious diseases experiment using alkaline, vinegar, water and Sprite, while her peer Brooke Bott added, “I just like to test stuff, and I’m getting to do it here.”

Sixth grade teacher Darren Stirland said the STEM exhibits aimed at kids made it like a “great big education party.”

“There’s a huge interest in those fields and a lot of excitement among our students for their future in tech fields,” he said. “The kids really get ramped up on STEM. We implement a lot of hands-on activities in our classrooms, but this may open more possibilities to us.”

Some of the STEM activities planned for the year include making cars created with index cards, four mints, a straw and masking tape. The object: “To think creatively with limited materials in making a mint mobile.”

Stirland also hopes to lead students in an egg drop — not just the normal one where students may cover the egg in bubble-wrap or package it in with Styrofoam peanuts and drop off a ladder or the school roof. 

“We are hoping to drop the eggs from a drone, hundreds of feet up, so students will need to rethink their engineering approaches,” he said, adding that an application for a drone was placed with Jordan Education Association. 

Stirland also hoped to bring in a retired drone pilot from the Air Force to talk about his career as well as extend the opportunity to others in the field he hoped to connect with at STEM Fest — as well as discover more ways to implement STEM into his teaching this year.

“Buckle your boots, these kids go nuts for STEM, said the 30-year veteran teacher “It’s not just one experiment and they’re done; they’re incorporating this into their assignments, into science fair and into Reflections, taking a scientific approach to the theme, ‘Look Within.’ They’re turning lightbulbs faster than we have them and get all jazzed up about it.”