CRANE – Marshmallows flew through the air on popsicle stick catapults, animals were “tracked” through snow made of moulding compound and drones buzzed around the Christmas Wonderland that filled the interior of the Westgate Academy last week during the first Crane Community Christmas, an event geared toward introducing the little learners to science, technology, engineering and math or STEM activities.
Over 300 3- to 5-year-olds from Head Start facilities in Daviess, Greene and Martin counties, as well as students from a few other daycares, were invited to not only participate in a variety of hands-on activities but also meet a reindeer and have a visit with Santa.
The first-year event was the brainchild of Kim Frazier, director of business operations for STIMULUS Engineering, who served as head elf.
“I bolted awake at 2 a.m. with this idea and decided it was something we had to do,” she said as she and Santa enjoyed a quick break from visiting with the children. “There are so many under-privileged kids in Region 8 Works Council and it’s so important to spark that interest in STEM at an early age.”
With more than a half dozen interactive activities, children learned about compounds, pressure and force, animals, and more. Those activities were manned and made possible by workers from not only STIMULUS Engineering but also Battery Innovation Center, FLIR Systems, Washington Knights of Columbus, 327 Solutions, Precise Systems, WestGate Authority, Crane Credit Union, Daviess Community Hospital, St. Vincent de Paul, JRC, Martin County CSC, Blacks in Government, TSC and TriStar Engineering. Hermie the Reindeer from Silly Safaris also met with the children.
“This,” Frazier said glancing around the room as the next wave of children passed through the doors, their little eyes sparkling in awe. “Is a chaotic version of my dream. I wanted to introduce them to STEM, give them a good meal and a little gift and let them meet with Santa.”
According to SciencePioneers.org, less than a decade ago, the United States Department of Labor released a list of the 10 most wanted employees. Of the 10, eight of those required degrees in a STEM field accounting, computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, information sciences and systems, computer engineering, civil engineering, and economics and finance. STEM jobs are also among the most highly compensated, but many employers struggle to fill positions due to a lack of qualified applicants.
Lemselson-MIT Invention Index, which gauges innovation aptitude among young adults, conducted a study that showed 60 percent of young adults between 16 and 25 could name at least one factor that kept them from pursuing a career in STEM. Those factors including not knowing enough about the subject matter, the subject matter being too difficult and not being well prepared by schools for those careers.
By introducing STEM during early childhood education, people like Frazier are hoping to inspire children to pursue those careers.
“STEM is so important,” said Frazier. “Hopefully they’ll see how fun STEM can be and maybe this will encourage them to pursue a career in STEM in future.”