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The partnership between the JMU STEM Center and Boys & Girls Club of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County (BGCHR) started in February of 2021 when children were still learning remotely. JMU students who are members of "STEM Corps" visit one of the BGCHR clubs every week for 22 weeks and engage the children in a curriculum developed by the JMU STEM Center director specifically for this partnership. Learn more about the BGCHR community and mission here

Theme I: Biodiversity 

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. -Albert Einstein

The 4-week "Biodiversity" theme uses the curiosity that children have about nature as a basis for fostering early development of STEM skills. Children begin to develop an appreciation for the “T” in STEM” as more than an electronic device. Here, it is a powerful tool that scientists use to better understand the natural world. As the children examine seeds, leaves, mushrooms, and other living parts of nature close-up, they begin to ask new questions that open up a world of wonderment and discovery.

After learning how to use the microscopes to examine their own nature collection, they use them again in week 2 to investigate physical adaptations of seeds that allow for their dispersal by different methods. In week 3, they use what they discovered from real seed adaptations to design their own model of a seed dispersal adaptation. In the last week, we use their previous three weeks of learning about plants to compare and contrast them to Fungi and do our first "experiment" using investigative practices.

I. Nature Magnified

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For all photos below: Please give credit to the photographer, Ibrahim Azad, for any photos you download and share. 

II. Traveling Seeds

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III.  Design a Seed

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IV. Fun with Fungi

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Theme II: Energy

Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated. ~Rosalind Franklin

In this 4-week theme, we use energy as the context for introducing children to why and how we use technology, mathematics, and science in engineering design. In week 1, children build their own tool called an anemometer to measure wind speed. They then use their anemometers in week 2 to determine how much wind is required to move the sail boats that they design and build using the design process. Here, we introduce the importance of both math and science in design by determining how the required wind speed is impacted by the shape they chose for their sail.

I. Measuring the Wind

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II. Powered by the Wind

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III. Keep it Hot

This challenges addresses the "not-hot hot chocolate problem”. In doing this, we are introducing the concept of "heat movement" as a foundation to later learn about thermal energy. They were challenged to design and create an insulator to keep their glass of liquid warm as it sat at room temperature for 20 min. We encouraged them to be creative but also intentional in their design by drawing on lived experiences and investigating the possible materials. They tested their design by using the science and mathematics practices of measuring and comparing the drop in temperature over time to a control.

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IV. Roller Coaster Challenge

We used the roller coaster design challenge as a fun way to explore the energy of motion. As the children designed, tested, and redesigned their structure with a marble as the car, our students engaged them in conversation about “how much energy" we think our marble has (e.g. in this design with the steeper drop versus our other design) based on how many hills and loops it could pass before stopping. Our goal was to use a fun and memorable experience that fosters creativity and collaborative problem solving (skills for STEM) as a way to lay early foundations for what they will later learn from their teachers as potential and kinetic energy and Newton’s 1st law of motion (science principles for STEM).

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Theme III: Human Body Systems

"The future belongs to the curious. The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it and turn it inside out" ~Anonymous

I. Digestive System Modeling

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II. Circulatory System Modeling

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Future Themes for Spring 2023:

The Land and Environment: 4 weeks

Space: 3 weeks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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