Medora, Brownstown students come together for National STEM Day

by Zach Spicer | Seymour Tribune | Nov 14, 2019
Several pieces of equipment in Medora Community Schools’ STEM lab was supplied by Indianapolis-based 1st Maker Space. On Nov. 8, the company’s technology adviser, Kim Brand, was able to show fourth-graders from Medora and Brownstown elementary schools how a laser cutter works and make them name ornaments out of cardboard to take home.

That fit right in with the schools’ participation in National STEM Day, during which they collaborated on activities based around science, technology, engineering and math.

"Kids need to grow up in a world that’s robot-proof and having the creativity, the critical thinking, the problem-solving," Brand said. "These kids will grow up knowing that most of the answers to their quiz is in their phone, so what do we really need to teach them? We need to teach them how to learn, how to put two and two together or connect the dots that are not even there. That’s why we’re doing this."

Working in the STEM lab was one of five stations the students rotated through during the four-and-a-half-hour event.

They also built parts with Legos to learn about working on an assembly line at a manufacturing facility, used a variety of materials to put an around an egg to prevent it from breaking when dropped at two different levels, made an agriculture poster based on animals — in this case Hexbugs — going from the farm to the county fair and built bridges with wooden sticks.

Kara Hunt, Medora’s dean of students and STEM facilitator, said she reached out to all of the public elementary schools in the county to join them for the day. Brownstown was able to bring two fourth grade classes, consisting of 50 students, to work alongside the 15 Medora kids.

"Sometimes, it seems like we’re all on our separate island, but it’s nice for them to get together and work with other kids and be in the buildings of other schools, see how other schools are and meet kids from other schools," Hunt said.

In the different groups, Medora and Brownstown students intermingled during the activities.

"Part of those Indiana employability standards and what we try to teach with our STEM program is that collaboration piece," Hunt said. "When they get out in the workforce, they are going to be collaborating with different people and working with different people, and that is a big part of that, bringing kids they are not used to and kids they don’t know."

The theme for the day was "Celebrating our Community," which Hunt said relates to Jackson County being rich with manufacturing and agriculture.

Excel Manufacturing Inc. and Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. were represented in the manufacturing activity, while Rose Acre Farms donated eggs and led the egg drop, and the Jackson County Highway Department assisted with the bridge building.

"It’s really nice to be able to get the kids together and teach them about some different career fields and things we have going on in Jackson County," Hunt said.

Maria Montgomery, human resources manager for Rose Acre Farms, said the Seymour-based egg company was happy to partner with the schools and work with the students.

Her favorite part of the egg drop was seeing kids figure out the best materials to protect their egg.

"There were a couple of boys who were really focusing on the top or the bottom, and I’m like, ‘Well, what about the sides?’ and as soon as I said that, they were like, ‘Oh, you’re right,’" she said. "It’s always just fun watching their little minds and how they view the world so much more differently than we do."

The activity helped grow the students’ minds and taught them to think of things in more than one way, Montgomery said.

"We’re teaching them to think outside the box, teaching them to be hands-on and think of things that you wouldn’t normally apply to today," she said.

The STEM curriculum also may open up career opportunities for the students, she said.

"One of the things I like about programs like this … is that it gives the ability for girls. That’s a big thing," she said. "For a long time, STEM was targeted more toward boys and males, so seeing the girls really getting in there and really getting hands-on, I think for me personally, it’s very rewarding."

Medora students Audie Starr and Zoey Scott both liked the egg drop the most.

Starr said she and her partner used bubble wrap and most of the other materials to keep their egg intact, and Scott had the same strategy.

"My partner was clapping a bunch," Scott said when they realized the egg didn’t break.

Classmate Josie Bowers said she liked watching the laser cutter work in the STEM lab.

"You saw the laser cut it," she said. "I like that you get to see how stuff works. You can test out different experiments and make different things."

Scott said another benefit of National STEM Day was she got to visit with a cousin she hadn’t seen in two years, Briar Pumphrey, who attends Brownstown Elementary School.

Pumphrey said he liked the egg drop. He used bubble wrap, soft paper and cardboard. That combination worked on the stairwell, but the egg cracked when dropped from the top of the bleachers in the gym.

Doing the activity was beneficial because it enabled him to learn, he said.

Brownstown fourth-grader Gage Lakes said it was hard to build the bridge, and he liked the assembly line activity best because he learned the importance of working as a team.

"You got to play with Legos, and they helped you correct it," he said.

Hunt said the National STEM Day event will be one more thing she can include when she submits the paperwork for Medora to become a STEM certified school. That’s due to the state Friday.

"This is another bit of evidence," she said. "Most of the schools that are STEM certified, they have something that they do, and hopefully, this will be our thing that we do that’s different than anywhere else."

Also for that certification, she can include the elementary school implementing Project Lead the Way in the second semester. Hunt said she and all of the elementary teachers went through an intensive two-day training to become certified.

"They will be doing that in their classes," she said. "That’s going to be a big part of our STEM."

With everything he has seen Medora do with STEM and its lab, Brand is impressed, especially with it being one of the smallest schools in the state.

"They can go from here to anywhere," he said of the students. "That’s really not an exaggeration. They can take what they learn upstairs (in the lab), apply it to a hobby or a career or it could be enrichment or it could be entrepreneurship."

Brand said students in Indianapolis are making and selling items with similar resources, and Medora kids should feel they can do the same thing.

"If you teach a kid how to use his hands to a productive pursuit, that just doesn’t give him skills. It gives him hope," he said.

"There are 14,000 hours of education in K-12," he said. "As Indiana, we’ve got to ask, ‘What do we want to use those 14,000 hours for?’ I think we’ve got to make kids hopeful and creative problem solvers. I think little Medora could lead the state. … I think that the goal that we all share is kids who love to learn and who have confidence that they can do anything, and this is where it starts."

Rose AcreTM Recipe of the Month

Saint Nick's Eggnog

  • 6 large EGGS
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 12 cinnamon sticks for garnish
  1. BEAT eggs, sugar and salt in large heavy saucepan until blended. STIR IN 2 cups milk.
  2. COOK over low heat, stirring constantly but gently, until mixture is just thick enough to just coat a metal spoon with a thin film and temperature reaches 160°F, about 15 minutes. Do not allow to boil. REMOVE from heat immediately.
  3. STIR IN remaining 2 cups milk and vanilla. REFRIGERATE, covered, until thoroughly chilled, several hours or overnight. 
"This is the day which the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalms 118:24