ELIZABETHTOWN — Though many of the preschool participants could not pronounce “science, technology, engineering and mathematics” (STEM), they could partake in the varied activities of the ECHO STEM program, held recently for Boquet Valley Central School students.

The youngsters from pre-K through junior high were busily engaged in building and cheering for their LEGO gravity racers, as well as erecting and deconstructing structures with big blue blocks which also served as a demonstration for the Domino Theory. A spin chair proved to be a relaxing venue, while creating electrical energy on a spin bike required the sitter to provide kinetic energy.

Paper airplanes zoomed across the auditorium propelled by a device similar to a batting practice pitching machine. A vertical wind cylinder blew an assortment of objects skyward

ENGAGING AND JOYFUL

According to ECHO Education Program Coordinator Caroline Frigon: “Programs like our STEM Festival are designed to engage kids in the processes of scientific inquiry and engineering. In a play-driven learning environment, young students are practicing asking questions, making predictions, and designing and testing solutions to problems. When we connect the term STEM to activities that are engaging and joyful, we help to cultivate student’s positive attitudes towards science.”

Frigon added, “Many of the activities were developed and built by ECHO. We have an exhibit specialist on our team who builds a lot of the gear that we bring with us, including our traveling wind wall and our paper airplane launcher. Some of our other activities, like the big blue blocks and bike generator, were designed and fabricated by other institutions and curated by ECHO staff to help support students’ learning during STEM Festivals.”

GROUP COLLABORATIONS

According to Boquet Valley Mountain View Campus Principal Elaine Dixon-Cross, who attended the event: “The funding came from a Federal OASIS (Opportunities and Supports in Schools) grant. We applied for the grant last year and received our approval over the summer. The grant allows us to collaborate with specific outside agencies to promote student experiences beyond the school day. For this project, we collaborated with CFES Brilliant Pathways and ECHO Leahy Center. In addition, for this grant, our partners are Cornell Cooperative Extension, ACAP (Adirondack Community Action Programs), and BRIEF (Building Resilience in Essex Families).”

Dixon-Cross provided rationale for Boquet Valley supporting and hosting the event, “As we all know, career fields are all experiencing shortages right now. STEM fields are no different, and the field continues to grow exponentially. We’re hopeful to engage our youth in STEM fields and guide them and their interests from an early age through the finish line in their senior year. In addition, students were able to explore, use problem-solving skills and have a really good time. We’re hopeful that the evening instilled a sense of passion in these subjects that we can hone over the next several years.”

In conclusion, Dixon-Cross said, “We’re really excited to be able to offer in-person events, like this, again. Many of us get our energy from being able to provide these types of meaningful learning experiences. We’re hopeful that this is the beginning of many more activities to come.”

For additional information go to: echovermont.org

Email Alvin Reiner at: rondackrambler@gmail.com

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