For the past several years, the University of Mount Olive has hosted over 700 third graders from Wayne and Duplin Counties for the annual STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) on the Green. However, because of COVID-19, this year’s event is being converted into a STEM on the “Screen” virtual event.
Speaking to the importance of having the event, even in a virtual format, Dr. Sara Lahman, Assistant Professor of Biology, and the event coordinator, said, “As science teachers, we realize how important hands on engagement with the material is, and wanted to still provide this experience. We also love being able to show kids how much fun STEM disciplines can be and how these concepts are all around them without them realizing it.”
This year’s virtual event will include 10 pre-recorded videos of activities that align with the third to fifth grade classroom curriculum. “Because it is virtual, the event will be available to even more participants,” Lahman said. “Anyone can go on to our website at umo.edu/stemonthescreen/ to view the videos and download the related NC curriculum standards.” Lahman noted the full program is about 45 minutes in length.
The pre-recorded videos include segments such as Fruity DNA, which helps students explore the human body; Cracking Under Pressure, an exercise demonstrating balanced and unbalanced forces using eggs and bricks; a segment on farm animals filmed at Kornegay Student Farm; and so much more. The videos feature guest appearances by Troy the Trojan, UMO President Dr. H. Edward Croom, and several UMO students and faculty representatives. Lahman noted that most of the segments can be replicated at home. The UMO website includes instructions and supply lists, so parents and teachers can help students do just that.
Lahman said, “We want students to get excited about these disciplines that can be viewed as difficult or boring. We want to show students what they can do with science, math, engineering, and technology – to show them connections in what they are learning in the classroom with everyday life.”
Even as the virtual Stem on the Screen is getting ready to go live, Lahman and others are already planning for a face-to-face STEM on the Green event in the fall of 2021, if COVID-19 protocols allow. “We really hope to be able to open our campus back up to students so they can get the full hands-on experience of STEM on the Green,” Lahman said. “In the interim, we are pleased to be able to offer STEM on the Screen as a way to keep young minds focused on the wonderful possibilities in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
Lahman noted that a $1,000 grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, helped make the STEM on the Screen event possible. “We are very appreciative of the continued support of Burroughs Wellcome Fund. It is a true asset in making this opportunity a reality.”