Nearly 40 elementary school students from Asbury Park and Bradley Beach visited Brookdale’s Lincroft campus on June 3 for a day of hands-on learning during the college’s first “STEM Day” celebration.
Following a welcome address by assistant mathematics professor and program coordinator Susan Monroe, the students participated in a series of interactive STEM workshops hosted by Brookdale faculty and staff.
Workshop topics included the impact of oil spills, the nature of electricity, the workings of a car engine, an introduction to computer programming and an interactive activity centered on mathematical modeling.
Students were also treated to a free lunch in the Jersey Blues Dining Room, a STEM-themed Brookdale goodie bag and received certificates of recognition for participating in the program.
“It was a big hit,” said Monroe, who also serves as president of the Bradley Beach Board of Education. “Many of these students have never been on a college campus, and their schools don’t have an real, working lab. So I think participating in some of these activities and touring our labs and working with that equipment is great exposure. It can get them thinking differently about STEM and what they may want to do in their careers.”
The STEM Day event served as the culmination of a year-long outreach program hosted by Brookdale and sponsored by NASA and the New Jersey Space Grant Consortium.
As part of the program, Brookdale faculty established after-school STEM clubs at Hope Academy Charter School in Asbury Park and Bradley Beach Elementary School, where students participated in a wide range of activities, expert lectures and group projects centered on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The clubs were then tasked with designing a STEM project to benefit their schools, which they worked on with faculty advisors throughout the spring. During STEM Day, representatives from each club were invited to present their projects to the gathered students and faculty.
Students from Hope Academy described their design for a new automated irrigation system, which will use large rain barrels and a system of piping to water the school’s garden while conserving resources and eliminating the need for daily upkeep.
Bradley Beach STEM Club members gave a live demonstration of their new environmentally friendly water filtration system, which uses rocks, sand and charcoal to remove contaminants from water without the need for electricity or chemicals.
“The other filtration systems can cause a lot of environmental problems,” said Bradley Beach sixth grader Arely Rubio, who attended STEM Day with her science teacher and STEM Club advisor Morgan Maclearie. “This one uses a lot of homemade materials, like coffee filters, and doesn’t hurt the environment.
“I’m proud of the work we did,” Rubio added. “We learned to work together to solve problems and we learned to care a little bit more about the earth.”
Despite the long hours spent planning and troubleshooting their respective STEM projects – which were often hampered by rain, strong winds, environmental obstacles and many other logistical hurdles – students from both schools said they were happy to have participated in the unique, year-long program.
“It’s more fun than difficult, because you are not just sitting there listening to a lecture. You are actually doing hands on work,” said Sidney Washington, an eighth-grader and member of Hope Academy’s STEM Club, which was led by science teacher Tonya Hassel. “I feel like I learned a lot.
“I’m not sure what I want to do yet, but coming here today and being a member of the club gave me an idea of what I enjoy about STEM,” Washington added. “It seems fun.”
That, according to Monroe, was the reason Brookdale initiated the NASA grant program in the first place.
“The whole goal is to get more students from all kinds of backgrounds interested in STEM education and STEM careers,” she said, adding that STEM industries offer higher wages and more opportunities to today’s college graduates than most other careers.
“Subjects like environmental science and physics aren’t really offered in K through 8. So, by getting their hands on these kinds of things, maybe it will spark some ideas and encourage them to take a little bit more math, or seek out some of those challenging courses in high school. My hope is to see these students show up in my classroom in four or five years.”
The NASA STEM grant program has also funded a wide range of benefits and services for current Brookdale students, including the expansion of campus clubs and the presentation of $5,000 research fellowships to eight Brookdale STEM majors throughout 2015. The grant program has been renewed for the 2016-17 school year. Read more about the program here.
Learn more about Brookdale’s STEM programs and services by visiting the STEM Institute webpage.
Check out more photos of the STEM Day program here.