Hands-on STEM

3:00 pm

Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. There’s broad agreement about the critical importance of STEM education. But words and acronyms are static; engaging kids is another matter. Enter the after-school STEM Club.

Offered for the last two years by Purdue Extension – Spencer County, the program gives third- through sixth-grade students hands-on opportunities to see STEM in action. For six weeks, they meet once a week to experiment with virtual reality; program robots, 3D pens and 3D printers; and construct model buildings. The operative word is fun.

At the end of the school day, Jennifer Mayo, Indiana 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator, and a volunteer bring a treasure of science gadgets and tools geared to the participants. They set them up in stations at the David Turnham Education Center in Dale. In groups of four, all 30 participants spend introductory time at each station and can then choose which they like the best to spend more time there.

Numbers gathered from surveying the kids indicate that the program is a big success: 92% said they were more excited about science and 100% said they learned something new.

Those are the numbers, but they can’t tell the whole story. For 12-year-old Jace Duttlinger, his favorite part of the program was the robots. “We programmed and checked if our program worked or not,” he says with excitement. “We programmed them for obstacle courses and to do funny stuff like dance or play the xylophone.”


of students in the STEM Club said they were more excited about science after participating.