An explosion of science excites area students - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

An explosion of science excites area students


The Governor's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Council met Wednesday afternoon at the University of Northern Iowa.

Gov. Branstad created the council this summer to focus on strengthening STEM learning in Iowa.

The council is working towards seven priorities, including technology-enhanced instruction in the classroom and student readiness for STEM careers.

Wednesday morning, a science fair for fifth graders showed just how excited young students can get about learning.

Wahlert Catholic High School in Dubuque holds a science fair every year for some area fifth graders. Approximately 200 attended this year's fair, which employed the help of about 100 Wahlert upperclassmen.

28 booths demonstrated exciting science demonstrations, such as what happens in a grain bin explosion and angular motion.

"Anything that explodes and with fire is always exciting," Molly Glennon said.

She's a fifth and sixth grade teacher at St. Mary's in East Dubuque, who said it's important to get kids interested in STEM areas.

"I know President Obama and leaders in Congress and so forth have always mentioned we're a little bit lacking in science and the math areas, and that's the areas where we need to keep up as a nation," Glennon said.

ACT test results show less than 50 percent of Iowa students who took the exam in 2009 were ready for college-level math or science.

"When you mix the...powder with the fire, that's the outcome you'll get," Wahlert senior Max Flynn told the fifth graders as he blew the lid off a tin can with a burst of flame.

He is one of the dozens of Wahlert students in upper level science classes who are leading the science demonstrations.

Flynn said he recalls being in the younger students' shoes.

"I remember coming to this and I loved it," he said, referring to the science fair. "I knew, after coming to this, this is one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Wahlert, just seeing the upperclassmen and how much that meant to me, so I hope we're making an impact on them, too."

Wahlert science teacher Bob Oberfoell said dozens of students from Wahlert every year go on to study a STEM-related college major.

"On an annual basis, I'd say about half of the kids that take the upper level science classes go on into some area of science," he said.

Even for students who don't pursue that path, however, "The reactions in your body: that's science. The things you do: technology, that's all science-based. It's just real important to have a background so you can function as a productive citizen and know a little bit of science," Oberfoell said.

For more information on the Governor's STEM Advisory Council, click HERE.

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