While classes may have been canceled yesterday to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, 29 students from the Oberlin area were keeping their minds sharp at a workshop hosted by Get With the Program. This organization, founded by Obie alum Jason Williams, engages elementary school kids in fun STEM themed events regularly. The programs goal is to get kids involved with STEM concepts early, encouraging their excitement and curiosity about these subjects before they can become scary or overwhelming. Each event has a different focus; in the fall there was a petting zoo teaching the kids to about zoology and the classification of farm animals, yesterday the kids were able to learn about Crypto-currencies and the next event in February will be focused on neuroscience!
|Photo from the petting-zoo in early Septemeber|
The day started at 9:45AM, with the first hour and half or so being focused on getting to know each other. Most of the kids had come to some events before, but were also new faces and introductions to be made! After some intense rounds of heads-up seven-up and a Simon says-charades combination game, we had our first introduction to crypto-currencies. The “watered down” explanation of computers solving complex math problems to encode and decode keys, which then have to be checked against a decentralized nodal-network still mostly goes over my head. After that we introduced them to one more: STEMCoins. Every student was handed their own paper-wallet with a unique QR-code inside, letting us add those coins to a student’s balance if they answered questions or helped others throughout the day. I’m not sure how much these 3rd graders fully understood, but they loved getting to do their own code-breaking. We showed them the “Pigpen” cypher, where every letter is turned into a combination of lines and dots, and had them decode a series of messages on the board. It was a great way to get them thinking, and they were so excited to create their own encrypted messages.
|Investigating what might be in the beakers!|
After that we had a lunch break at the lovely Stevenson dining hall before starting the second part of the day. Freshly fueled with healthy dose of pizza and ice cream, the kids began their adventures around the science center. All the kids were broken into four groups and two of them began a scavenger hunt while the other two competed in a relay race. The teams that completed each event the fastest were awarded the most STEM coins. The pairs of teams then swapped roles after each finished, allowing everyone to participate in all of the activities. At the end of the day we scanned in everyone’s QR code one more time and opened up the STEM-Store, a place for them to spend their hard earned coins. Prizes included extremely fashionable slap-on wristbands, XL T-shirts, and some wacky LED Sunglasses. Overall, it was a pretty fun day, and a great way to get children thinking about math and science in a fun and engaging way.
|Proudly showing off the folders that they decorated to remember the day|
|Orange team celebrating their victory|