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Encouraging STEM With Hands-On Learning
By Kera Mashek
March 5, 2014


SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (Kera Mashek) Studies consistently show that students tend to do better when they work on projects, which engage them in hands-on learning, rather than just listening to a teacher give a lecture. This approach to education is especially valuable in science.

There's a pretty big buzz word in education right now, and it's "STEM," which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. It's these four fields that in recent years, American students have been lagging behind. It's also the areas where experts predict the most significant career growth into the future. So now, there's a big push in schools everywhere to get kids excited and engaged about STEM learning, and that's exactly what's happening this week at one local school.

Keeping the attention of a room full of second graders isn't easy! But hands-on learning through a scientific experiment seems to be doing the trick for students at Flinn Elementary in Sissonville.

"Sometimes, you know, a textbook is just not going to cut it. So our classroom teachers do incorporate experiments in the classroom, but this is just another way to bring it to life for the students," said Maria Clendenin, Flinn Elementary principal.

In a mobile science lab, special instructors give kids a lesson about nutrition. They are learning about the fat content in different foods and running tests with water and oil.

"Mostly junk foods have oils and fats," said second grader Dillon Streeter.

Such experiments are getting kids engaged in science learning at a critical time in their education.

"The earlier you get them, you know, the more they'll be able to retain. The more they'll be able to expand upon as they get older and progress through the years," said Savannah Silber, Flinn Elementary teacher.

It's something that's incredibly valuable in a world where a lot of careers are built around STEM fields.

"Especially in the medical field and in any type of engineering, science is extremely important. In addition, when they go to college, career readiness. That's one of the things we're stressing with the common core standards and being career ready is so important. The more we can expose them to these types of things, the better off they'll be from middle school to high school and beyond," Clendenin said.

As for students, they're soaking it up.

Eyewitness News asked, "Do you think your school should do more stuff like this?

"Yeah," Streeter said.

Eyewitness News asked, "And why?"

"Because I really like it," said Streeter.

That's encouragement For educators to keep incorporating hands-on learning, so kids want to study science and math and can excel in those fields.

That's crucial because careers in STEM related fields are exploding. In fact, economists say there are now three times more STEM jobs available than jobs not related to science and math.

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