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By Rama K. Ramaswamy
A hand-full of Wellesley’s elementary schools organize and run annual extracurricular STEM programs.
Bates School has it’s “Magnificent Day of Play” whereby students participate in making creations out of cardboard and other materials and Upham School has it’s “Invention Convention” wherein students bring in posters about their inventions and STEM-inspired ideas.
Hardy School’s model has been to set up as a series of volunteer driven, hands-on STEM workshops, bringing back and continuing a few, due to popular demand, creating new ones and tweaking others to meet the community’s demand for high quality curiosity exploration-explosion. Although organizers are quick to point out at the outset that it takes a whole village, a few dedicated parents remain the key ingredient for Hardy Science Night’s six-year success streak.
At it’s core is parent Ansley Martin, who some in the community describe as “the Hardy Dad.” Accoding to Martin, “the fact that we have maintained an annual science night at Hardy for six consecutive years is a testament to the importance the Hardy community places in STEM-based education and exposing our students to a myriad of STEM topics. If it were not for the Hardy parents volunteering their talents and time to prepare and execute such a presentation each and every year, we would not be able to have such an engaging and inspiring night for our students.”
Hardy Science Night 2016 featured its very popular “Take-Apart Room,” wherein K-5 students, secured behind safety goggles, dismantled appliances, phones, printers, toasters and alarm clocks with immense satisfaction supervised by Hardy dads David Fico and Kevin Leach, former Hardy PTO CO-President.
This workshop was brought to the Wellesley STEM Expo 2015 as party of Hardy’s contribution. Each Workshop had three back-to-back sessions and really bought to bear the meaning of “hands-on science.” No workshop could be labeled an “exhibit” but truly something students could set their hands on.
Marat Alimzhanov, a pharmacologist at Acceleron Pharma, showed budding chemists how to isolate DNA from fruit; Christine Carpenter, a Wellesley High physics teacher, showed Hardy students how to create and use electricity and magnetism for everyday life; Adam Baldinger, Curatorial Associate in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the Harvard Museum of Natural History brought many samples, including snail shells; and Ann Trenk, Professor of Mathematics at Wellesley College, ran a “Math Detectives” workshop that demonstrated how math is actually fun.
There were many other presenters as well, and the students seemed to enjoy all of them.
Hardy mom and key organizer Stephanie Juma said that her children really enjoyed, “Math Detectives, which was great fun and the kids showed great teamwork with two more friends, building a cube from different shaped cardboard boxes. Destructive Testing was also fun, building something and seeing how much power it took to crush it.
“Finally, Electricity/Magnetism was awesome. Using batteries and wires to light a light bulb and make a fan function. All sessions were great with wonderful hands on experiences for all our Hardy kids.”
According to Martin, “each year we aim to have a wide variety of STEM-based presentations. We have our core of presentations we recycle each year because of their relevance and popularity and to ensure the students have an opportunity to sign up for that presentation in case that presentation was filled the year prior. After that, we try to add new topics to ensure we keep the choices of topics fresh and enticing.”
Rama K. Ramaswamy writes for Hometown Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.