BGCC shifts approach to education
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Jun 17, 2013 | 752 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Learning through STEM
YOUNG MEMBERS of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s Tucker Unit watch their recently created lava lamp in awe. The boys took turns adding the necessary liquids, fluorescent orange paint and seltzer tablets.  Banner photos, DELANEY WALKER
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A group of young boys crowds around a table, eyes focused on the Tumbler cup.

Several take turns adding clear liquid with a look of concentration across their faces.

Finally, the fluorescent orange paint is added.

Emily Ambry, STEM staff for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s Tucker Unit, opens a packet of seltzer tablets.

“Let’s add them all at once,” crows one boy with his hand thrust out toward Ambry.

A chorus of young voices agree with the first as they hold out their hands for their white tablet.

“We are going to add them one by one,” Ambry reminds her young charges.

Each one has a chance to drop their seltzer in the mix.

A black light is turned on as the room’s lights go off.

The children share a sense of accomplishment and excitement as they watch their homemade lava lamp.

Projects are being completed all across the Cleveland clubs to ensure students get a feel for not only science, but also technology, engineering and math.

“Later in the summer, we are going to do the baking soda-vinegar volcanoes,” Ambry explained. “For technology, they work with the computers a lot and get familiarized with the programs. For engineering we have robots for them to build, and circuit boards. We also built a rocket the other day.”

Math lessons are taught online through a computer program.

“They answer math questions that help them retain knowledge they’ve already learned,” Ambry said. “For every number of questions they answer, they get to play a game.”

A 21st century three-year grant from the state has allowed for a number of programs and projects at the clubs. According to Britt DeBusk, Tucker Unit director, the list includes: creating a Silly Putty-like substance; circuit boards; rockets; and robots. DeBusk explained the Silly Putty project will allow members to experiment while giving them something to show for their work.

“We are an after-school program, so they are coming in tired of learning,” DeBusk said. “So if we can do this, then they don’t even realize they are learning.”

The circuit boards allow children to manipulate the machinery to operate various items like a fan, lights, alarms and sirens.

Robots challenge the children to think innovatively through programming. The clubs’ current robots allow students to operate them through clapping, waving their hands and laying down electrical tape. Mike Thompson, IT director, said a new generation of robots to be received later this year will allow for 17 different programs.

He said the goal is to give members something they do not get at home or at school, “While opening their eyes to possibilities they never knew they wanted a career in.”

According to DeBusk, the robots really challenge students to think.

“It really pushes them. It is not like they can sit down and do it today,” DeBusk said. “It is like, let’s sit down and figure this out over the next couple of weeks,” which stimulates students’ problem-solving abilities.

Ambry said the entire STEM program offered by the clubs challenges members.

“A lot of it is critical thinking. They are going to need to do a lot of problem-solving with the engineering, and a lot of creative thinking with the science and critical thinking with the technology,” Ambry said. “They are going to need these skills when they grow up.”

Thompson said a potential goal for the clubs would be to have a designated STEM room at each unit.