WESTFIELD, NJ — The event was held at an intermediate school but the learning on offer was quite advanced.
Students from the town’s elementary and middle schools participated in Edison Intermediate School’s third annual STEM Night, hosted by volunteers from the district’s Gifted and Talented program this week. The event was begun in 2017 at the suggestion of Crystal Marsh, vice principal at Edison Intermediate School.
“I saw the success of Westfield’s summer STEM program, and saw a need for something like this during the school year,” said Marsh, who previously worked as a middle school science teacher. “We have six of our math, science and computer technology teachers volunteering to run activities here tonight.”
On Tuesday, students explored activities offered in eight different classrooms, from robotics and coding, to learning how a surgeon does sutures by practicing on a banana peel with Dr. Stephanie Bonne, a surgeon at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
The Westfield Green Team participated for the first time in this year’s STEM Night, providing students with an opportunity to make mason bee houses or “Leave the Leaves” signs.
“We want to discourage Westfield residents from raking their leaves,” said Lois Kraus, who along with Green Team co-chair Medea Villere, ran the activity. Leaving the leaves on the grass or mulching them feeds the soil during the winter, and cuts down on the use of leaf blowers, which aren’t good for the environment.”
Jefferson School fourth grader Ryan Yip learned some basic coding using Scratch programming language from Westfield High School students in the Coding With a Cause Club.
“Ryan is really into math and science,” said his mother, Lisa. “This is easy to pick up so it seems to be holding his interest.”
Sophia DeFoe, a fifth grader at McKinley School, stopped by STEM Night while her brother was at wrestling practice in the gym. Fifteen minutes later she was already on her second activity — creating a marble maze with at least five obstacles on a paper plate.
“Our goal is to provide something fun for the kids that exposes them to different areas of math, science and technology,” said STEM Night co-chair Reva Narasimhan. “The activities are so different and pull from different areas. We hope to make students interested in the importance of science.”
“I like that it’s so hands-on,” said Priti Dave, who also co-chaired the event. “The activities don’t take too long, so the kids can experience a lot of different things.”