Rockhurst Professor, Students Build STEAM for Younger PupilsOctober 22, 2013

More than 50 students from nearby Visitation Parish School filled Lecturer Aaron Bossert’s biology lab for their lesson Friday.

Dressed for play on what would normally be their day off, they were far from resentful. Instead, many of their eyes lit up upon seeing their first lesson for the day – snakes.

Throughout the day, the kindergarteners to fourth graders took part in a series of unique activities arranged by Rockhurst Assistant Professor of Education Mandi Sonnenberg, Ed.D., and facilitated by former and current students of her Technology in the Classroom course.

Sonnenberg said she has long had a relationship with Visitation.

“They are one of the partner schools for my service learning project,” Sonnenberg said, a partnership that has grown into a once-per-semester STEAM Day visit to the Rockhurst campus.

The student volunteers from Sonnenberg’s class, together with professors and instructors from Rockhurst, developed activities meant to be not only fun, but which fall within the realm of STEAM curriculum: science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. For example, the students got an upclose look at snakes in Bossert’s lab and learned about the patterns of certain snakes by building their own with colored pipe cleaners.

“We want to expose them to fun science activities, especially at a young age, so they grow up actually enjoying it and it doesn’t become one of those things they don’t want to do,” Sonnenberg said.

Aside from the morning encounters with reptiles in Bossert’s lab, the young students also explored physics first-hand with a bouncy activity in Kinerk Commons, interacted via online conferencing service Skype with scientists all over the world and took part in theater activities in Mabee Theater. At the end of the day, they produced a video as a sort of digital memory of their experience.

In addition to planting the seeds for future learning, Sonnenberg said the STEAM Day activities, with its artistic component, seek to foster individual creativity.

Connor Fraser, a sophomore at Rockhurst who was one of the facilitators during the activities, said the day gave him a chance to learn, too.

“It’s a cool opportunity to interact with a bunch of kids and get a little practice with them in a classroom setting,” he said.

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