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Building S.T.E.M. Connections within the Community

Posted: August 21, 2014 — Laurie Lazinski

“When are we ever going to use this in ‘real’ life?” is a question I have heard countless times during my career teaching middle school Biology and now college Chemistry. The answer is S.T.E.M.! S.T.E.M. stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It allows for the integration of curricula between these four disciplines and encourages critical thinking skills and group work, enabling students to apply concepts in a real world or pseudo real-world environment. When used together, these four areas prepare students to find careers in nanotechnology (such as GLOBALFOUNDRIES), alternative energy (solar, wind), and other related fields.

The technology we have today is much improved over the technology from twenty years ago. When I was a child, I had to use a pay phone to call my mother or father to get a ride home from school. Today, children can send a text message while parents can use navigation apps on their phones or in their cars to find their child’s friend’s house. In high school, my home was one of the first to have slow, dial-up internet. Today, with my smartphone, I can look up the score of a football game or the name of a movie while I am standing in line at the supermarket in a matter of seconds. You may not think about it, but S.T.E.M. played a large part in the creation of these life-changing products.
How does S.T.E.M. play a role at FM, you ask? FM has a S.T.E.M. club that brings students of different academic backgrounds together to share ideas, host events, take field trips, and serve the community. The club is open to all FM students who are interested in learning more about S.T.E.M., regardless of their chosen academic or career path.
For the past two years, members of the S.T.E.M. club have had the opportunity to attend the Park Terrace Elementary Science Fair in the Gloversville Enlarged School District. Club members assisted Park Terrace students in creating bouncy balls and lava lamps that students were able to take home. One of the club’s goals is to find more opportunities to visit local elementary and middle schools to perform hands-on activities to increase students’ interest in the four disciplines. These interactions create positive connections with science, technology, engineering, and math for our young students.

The club would also like to initiate a tutoring/mentoring program with high school students in the area. The science and math involved in S.T.E.M. are sometimes difficult for high school students to grasp, often leading them to shy away from asking for help from their teachers. FM students who were recently in the same boat would offer extra encouragement and support that a struggling high school student may need to be successful.
As the S.T.E.M. club advisor, I am thrilled to see FM students with diverse educational backgrounds wanting to share their knowledge and passion for learning and problem solving in S.T.E.M.-related areas with local students. The club hopes to generate more interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics throughout the area, especially with the opening of the P-Tech Regional High School this fall in Johnstown. With greater positive exposure to these four academic disciplines, students’ enthusiasm and interest in S.T.E.M. will continue to grow.

Laurie Lazinski is a Chemistry Instructor at FM. Contact her at laurie.lazinski@fmcc.edu.

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