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Sandy Journal

Brookwood students use imagination, curiosity, problem-solving during STEM Night

Mar 31, 2023 10:38AM ● By Julie Slama

A Brookwood Elementary student uses the robot’s controls to move it around as Brookwood families look on during the school’s STEM night. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Brookwood Elementary third-grader Rowan Erlacher likes math.

“It’s always fun,” he said. “I know three ways to subtract.”

Rowan, his first-grade sister, Hadley, his 3-year-old sibling, Kit, and mother, Lauren, were at the school’s second annual STEM Night, where they completed the “Are You Smarter Than Your Child in Math?” worksheets.

“As a family, I think we always find ways to do math with board games like Yahtzee and card games,” his mother said. “By making math fun and playing games, the kids enjoy math. We’re grateful that this event provides opportunities for kids to come together as a community and learn about the importance of STEM through activities. It gets our kids excited, and they learn STEM is fun. It hopefully sets someone on a path for STEM.”

Rowan and his family then tried the Loading Pictures hands-on experiment, where students colored shapes on a non-porous surface with dry erase markers. Then, warm water was poured on the design, which loosened the design to make it appear as if it were floating, said volunteer Natalie Hansen.

“The kids learned the reaction of the markers when the right temperature of water is poured on it,” she said. “If cold water is poured on it, it won’t release. If hot water is poured on it, it will dissolve. When they get the right temperature with the water, about 110 to 112 degrees, it has a reaction with pigments in the marker when which releases the designs.”

Hansen helps with the school’s hands-on science program that Brookwood’s 400 students engage in about three times per year.

“I hope they want to explore all the areas science and technology and engineering and get excited to try new things,” she said. “Students can use their imagination with what they’ve learned in school in math and science to have a great time.”

PTA STEM Night organizer Camille Merkley said that students and their families were “amazed at the science” of the Loading Pictures experiment.

About 300 people rotated through the activities; each of the stations represented a different part of STEM, she said.

For example, at another station, students engineered structures using toothpicks and marshmallows. 

For the technology station, students could engage with Code Ninjas and with the Aluminum Falcons FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team. Brookwood students were able to take control of the robot, and ask questions of the robotics students, some who attend nearby Albion Middle School.

“I think students were having a lot of fun learning about engineering and the robots,” she said. “The kids loved all the activities, and it was great for them to have exposure to all the activities and realize that science is fun. We’re lucky we have a hands-on science program, but the day goes by so fast, and there’s so many things that need to be taught, that STEM Night gives students additional exposure to the sciences so they’re able to think creatively and challenge their problem-solving skills and curiosity.”

Merkley appreciates that it allows people to interact with each other and learn together.

“It’s definitely a community builder,” she said. “STEM Night brings out a whole different crowd of people, and many of the students like doing these activities, especially with their dads as the dads seem to show up to this activity more than any other. We also get a lot of people who live in our neighborhood who are excited about it.”

About 10 volunteers ran stations or assisted parents helping their children with the activities.

“I think the parents were having as much fun as the kids,” Merkley said.

Justin Lafeen brought his fourth-grade son, Milo, to STEM Night that evening. The rest of the family, including two older siblings, joined in on the fun.

“We love STEM Night; the kids get hands-on experience and we’re supporting them as they get interested in science,” he said. “Coming here is fun for them because they do a lot of activities together and get to see their friends outside of a normal school day.”

Milo, who does Scratch programming on a computer at home and likes to figure out different ways to win playing chess with his school club, was filling out his STEM Night passport, hitting every station.

“It’s fun,” he said. “I just like it all.”