Heating up their education with some STEAM

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

Students and family members filled the cafeteria at Toffolon Elementary School Wednesday evening for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Night, where high school volunteers from the Science National Honor Society helped students in grades three to five to create exciting scientific experiments.

“The hope is to encourage the young students and expose them to the world of science while introducing them to some different, cool projects they can easily do at home,” said Phil Saunders, science and math instructional leader at Plainville Community Schools.

Saunders said it is easier for students to find an interest in STEAM-related learning by participating in hands-on experiences, rather than hearing about them from an instructor in a classroom. This year’s event was the biggest one yet, with around 700 students participating over the four-day event.

“We also encourage the parents to get involved by inviting them to join in,” he said.

Students could go from station to station, working with one high school volunteer to make something fantastic. A “fantastic foam fountain” made a colorful volcanic reaction. Students made their own bouncy balls, marshmallow catapults, slime, film canister rockets and more.

Phoebe Bell, a PHS senior, had returned for her second round of STEAM Night.

“It’s so fun to help the students learn about science,” said Bell. The volunteers on-hand at the STEAM Nights earned some necessary community service hours for their requirements in the Science National Honor Society.

Aryanna Lebron stood in anticipation for the young students to file in. Her station involved painting and combining different materials to create a beautiful, colorful reaction on paper.

“It’s really great to be here because I have so many fond memories of being a student here myself,” she said. “We didn’t have STEAM Night when I was here, but I wish we had. This is a great experience for them and we want them to have fun.”

PHS senior Jake Hillburn ran a few stations, including the film canister rockets that built up pressure and popped off into the air, a spaghetti tower emphasizing on foundations and shapes, and a hoop glider.

“They put me in charge of the dangerous one,” Hillburn said jokingly. The film canister rockets experiment was harmless when done correctly, but did require safety goggles as a safety measure.

“It’s just a lot of fun to hang out with the kids and teach them something they won’t really learn in a classroom setting,” Hillburn said.

What began as a Math Night 15 years ago by Saunders shifted and changed to include and inspire more students to take part in the world of math and science. The 2018 round of STEAM Nights was the fourth one yet, with two events at both Wheeler School and Toffolon School.

The event is supported by the Elizabeth Norton Grant Foundation.

Comments? Email scyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.