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Millcreek Journal

Science takes center stage at Eastwood Elementary’s STEM open house

Mar 30, 2023 03:50PM ● By Lizzie Walje

Students watched as demonstrators created ice cream out of liquid nitrogen. (Lizzie Walje/City Journals)

Students, teachers and parents at Eastwood Elementary School rang in the new year by hosting a community-wide STEMfest open house. The event, sponsored by the Eastwood parent-teacher association, highlighted Eastwood’s recognition as a STEM-designated school, while also featuring scientific displays and experiments from both students and industry professionals. 

STEM and/or STEAM (both abbreviations that are used interchangeably) stands for Science, Tech, Engineering and Math, and is a program that was developed by the State of Utah to define the criteria and elements necessary for a school to create a comprehensive STEM learning environment for their students. 

According to their website, “The STEM School Designation program will allow schools to engage in discussions with faculty and community partners around STEM education as a lens for strong instruction for students to prepare them for college and career readiness.”

As of March 2021, 37 schools have received the designation, including Millcreek’s Eastwood Elementary. Within the STEM program, schools are classified as platinum, gold, silver or bronze. Eastwood is currently recognized as bronze. The overall hope is that STEM will eventually be implemented in all of Utah’s schools, creating a statewide integration that bands together education, government and industry.

“We aim to provide an engaging STEM learning experience to every student in our school,” says a memo drafted by Eastwood Elementary School that can be found on STEM’s website. “Through STEM experiences, we are providing our students with 21st-century skills. Our students inquire, collaborate and solve problems using the nature of science.”

One of the goals of STEM is to help cultivate interest for students of all ages in scientific fields of study. At Eastwood’s Jan. 10 STEMfest, representatives from various associations across the state were present, most notably the Utah Mining Association. Since 1915, the Utah Mining Association has existed to help promote and encourage education in mining and minerals to further understand the industry and its role in the community at large. 

It’s now been over a century since the Utah Mining Association was founded, yet its mission is just as relevant today as it was at its inception. Especially for students who have an interest in the field and are looking to find consistent and gainful employment in the industry. A recent report by the Utah Geological Survey says mining production increased by 2.4% or $90 million between 2019 and 2020. Given that mining continues to be a strong contributor to Utah’s economy, it comes as no surprise that officials are looking to spark interest in students who represent the next wave of the workforce.

Welding is another area where state leaders are actively trying to recruit students. As another contributor to Utah’s booming economy, welding offers steady employment and competitive wages. Michelle Robertson is an academic advisor at Salt Lake Technical College, within Salt Lake Community College. She works exclusively as an advisor to those in the school’s welding program and speaks of how the program is mutually beneficial for both industry and individual. 

“Within approximately 18 months or less, students are skilled welders ready to enter the workforce. Often students secure employment before they complete the program, as the demand for skilled welders is high in the state of Utah,” Robertson said. “The program is competitive and (we ensure) our graduates are desirable to businesses in the state of Utah. This boosts our economy and puts skilled individuals to work, benefitting both the employee and the employer.” 

Events like STEMfest help to further spark interest in students and give them an opportunity to speak directly to those in industries like mining and welding. These conversations can help create an ongoing dialogue and furthermore educate students on Utah’s top scientific industries. 

While STEMfest featured multiple appearances and demonstrations from professionals, it also allowed the Eastwood student body to demonstrate their own scientific acumen and expertise, with a schoolwide science fair. Students participated in the fair and created their own comprehensive experiments that included testable hypotheses and consequent data interpretation. 

The science fair portion of STEMfest had students seeking to answer and test all types of different hypotheses. These experiments ranged from having several test subjects try and guess how many ornaments were on a Christmas tree, to observing which cat in a student’s household could jump the highest. Of course, no science fair would be complete without the traditional Coke and Mentos experiment, where a student tried to test which type of soda would elicit the greatest Mentos explosion by height. 

The night concluded with an event tailor-made for elementary school students, a liquid nitrogen ice cream experiment. Students gathered around, as they watched liquid nitrogen undergo the process of turning into ice cream. As the night came to an end, it was clear that STEMfest had met its goal of piquing the interest of students.