Super STEM Saturday program accepting applications from middle-schoolers

COLLEGE LEARNING: Middle school students learned from college professors during Super STEM Saturdays in the spring at Ferris State University. A second session will be starting Oct. 15, with registration opening Saturday, Oct. 1. (Courtesy photo)

COLLEGE LEARNING: Middle school students learned from college professors during Super STEM Saturdays in the spring at Ferris State University. A second session will be starting Oct. 15, with registration opening Saturday, Oct. 1. (Courtesy photo)

BIG RAPIDS — Five weeks of free hands-on science labs under the direction of college professors are available for area middle-schoolers, if they’re among the first to register.

Super STEM Saturdays is a program providing educational experience-based learning for sixth- through eighth-graders in Mecosta and Osceola counties. The students will explore the fields of biology, engineering, mathematics and physical science from 9 to 11 a.m. on five consecutive Saturdays beginning Oct. 15 on the campus of Ferris State University.

“We did a survey after the first one last spring and the kids absolutely loved it,” said Laura Forbes, one of the event organizers. “They all said they’d love to come back and all had a blast.”

The first 32 students to register will be accepted, and the 33rd and 34th students will be alternates, she explained.

“The registration system will take up to 34 because there’s usually one or two kids who can’t make it at the last minute,” Forbes said. “If you do get accepted, we do want you to be at all five sessions, because otherwise another student could have been there.”

Registration will open at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, and will close at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 12. Registration is completed online at bit.ly/superSTEMregistration.

The program this fall will be a repeat of the one offered in the spring, so participants from the spring session are asked not to apply so other students can have the experience. Only 32 students can participate because the program has only enough volunteers for two labs, Forbes said.

HANDS-ON LEARNING: A middle-school student uses a microscope during the spring session of Super STEM Saturdays at Ferris State University. A second session will be starting Oct. 15, with registration opening Saturday, Oct. 1. (Courtesy photo)

HANDS-ON LEARNING: A middle-school student uses a microscope during the spring session of Super STEM Saturdays at Ferris State University. A second session will be starting Oct. 15, with registration opening Saturday, Oct. 1. (Courtesy photo)

“We’re doing the same program as last spring because we knew we had kids sign up we couldn’t accommodate,” Forbes said. “We wanted to give them another chance. We’ll do another round of Saturdays in January or February with all new stuff.”

During the two-hour sessions, participants will learn through hands-on activities based on that week’s field of study. Biology covers two weeks, and the other fields are one week each.

During the biology sessions, students will explore microbiology with an environmental survey, learn about DNA and probably have an anatomy lesson, Forbes said. In the spring, the activity mimicked the digestive system going through the digestive process.

In engineering, participants will design, build and test cars for aerodynamics as well as make wind turbine blades to study wind resistance. The physical science activities explore the pH — a way to measure acidity — and food chemistry. In the spring, students made ice cream and cheese and tested the pH of lemons compared to laundry detergent. In the math session, students are presented with a mathematical game and must determine the best strategy for winning.

“It’s very hands-on, with not much lecture at all,” Forbes said. “We get them together and say, ‘This is what we’re doing and this is how to do it safely,’ then we go do the activity and bring them back together to compare results and discuss what we’ve learned.”

INVESTIGATION: A group of students tries to figure out a problem during the spring session of Super STEM Saturdays. The fall session will begin Oct. 15, with registration opening Saturday, Oct. 1. (Courtesy photo)

INVESTIGATION: A group of students tries to figure out a problem during the spring session of Super STEM Saturdays. The fall session will begin Oct. 15, with registration opening Saturday, Oct. 1. (Courtesy photo)

Super STEM Saturdays provide a valuable experience for participants, Forbes said.

“It’s only 10 hours total, during which students have a chance to be on a college campus, taught by college professors and broaden their minds more than just what their own classrooms provide,” she said.

The ideal participant is interested in the subject matter and in learning more, she added.

“If your child is the type who gets excited about the sciences, math or engineering — if they’re always thinking about ways to help the world by inventing new things, for example, which is engineering — that’s the kind of child we’re looking for. We want to encourage kids to get excited about science and math and enjoy a morning with like-minded peers.”

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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