As part of Washington Middle School’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) after school program at JCC, Jamestown High School Physics teacher Steve Propheter asked students to gaze into different types of mirrors to demonstrate how light reflects. Mr. Propheter provided different shape mirrors, concave and convex. The concave mirror inverted a student’s image when observed from a distance but up-close, the mirror magnified it. The convex mirror widened the viewing area but made the image smaller. Students learned that light will reflect at the same angle it comes in or, also called, incident angle.
“I believe it is extremely important for our middle school students to have as many opportunities as possible exploring not just science, but any area that may peak their interest,” said Mr. Propheter. “There are so many high stakes tests, students may not be able to explore curriculum topics to their level of satisfaction in the time allotted. Getting them involved outside of their regular class time can make an impression that could develop in to a passion, or help them find what they may want to do for life. In science ‘hands on’ is key to achieve understanding.”
A committee of area educators and community members interested in STEM programming developed the after school program last year with Washington School’s Science teacher Kay Eklum. Appropriate topics that coincide with regular classroom instruction are devised by JCC’s Center for Continuing Education and the Washington AT 7th and 8th grade teachers. The program provides courses such as: Force, Air and Motion, Light up your Life, Habitat Heroes, Math, Magic Squares and More, the Heart and the Human Body, and Digital Storytelling.
The intent of the program is to provide relevant, hands-on instruction to compliment the seventh and eighth grade AT curriculum consisting of physics, earth science, chemistry and biology. The program encourages students to expand their problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills, ability to work in groups, and to introduces them to new concepts and ways of thinking. Students also utilize labs and classrooms on a college campus.
“I loved the Habitat Heroes unit,” said Washington Middle School seventh grader Skylar Beane. “I discovered many animals that I had never heard of. I love animals and science and want to become a vet technician. By going to STEM, we can try out different science and math careers and learn a lot more about a subject than we can during the school day. It lets us think about potential careers in a fun way.”
“My son loves the program,” said Kristie Peppy, parent of Michael who has participated in the program for two years. “Programs like this are so important for our children because as a parent you can talk about the importance of science, math, technology and engineering. However, when a child physically participates in it in a real-life setting, it opens up all of these opportunities and possibilities that they might never have experienced otherwise. We are lucky to have this program for our children.”