Spring break not a break from 4-H STEM activities

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By Brian Garner

Although the last thing students wanted to think about while on spring break was probably Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), the Chester County 4-H and the Chester County Library made sure students did just that when they attended the 4-H STEM Day Camp last week.

Students in grades K5 through fifth had three chances to attend the camps, which were held at the Chester Main Library and Lewisville and Great Falls branches.

The trick with any learning experience seems to be “make it fun and they will come” and this 4-H event was no exception. Students practiced their STEM skills while creating “bath fizzies” out of baking soda, cream of tartar, fragrance and food coloring, cooking marshmallows for s’mores on a solar cooker they constructed and making “quicksand.” Since these events were held at the library, they also read a book or two.

Chester County 4-H Coordinator Robin Currence said the day camps came about because the J. Marion Sims Foundation gave them a grant to do 4-H Science on the Move and STEM activities in Great Falls, Fort Lawn and Lancaster (the “footprint” the Foundation serves). Currence and Chester County Children’s Librarian Beth Harris added activities at the Chester Main Library as well. The Chester activities were sponsored by money from the Lutz Foundation.

The idea is to keep the kids’ minds on the STEM-type subjects during their week out of school. Students will begin various levels of testing when they return to class on the following Monday.

In addition to melting marshmallows for s’mores, when the students built their solar cookers they were learning about the sun and reflection and heat absorption. The bath fizzies activity taught about acids and bases and chemical reactions and the quicksand activity saw the students make the quicksand from two materials with different properties and then tasked with constructing a bridge over the quicksand.

“These are activities just to keep their brains geared up,” said Currence.