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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
Powering a battery with a potato and measuring wind speed with household items are just two of the activities that have Sherwood Elementary School students buzzing about science.
This year, the school partnered with local organizations EduSerc and OUR Schools to launch a new Green STEM Residency Program, where professional engineers worked in the schools’ science classes to provide hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training and industry exposure to the students.
The first semester of the program featured lessons about renewable energy production and consumption, including solar and wind production, energy storage and energy efficiency.
The second semester focused on sustainable agriculture, culminating in a project where students built a vertical hydroponic garden.
Sherwood Elementary Principal Dina Brewer could not contain her enthusiasm for the success of the program.
“It has been a great learning experience,” she said.
The Green STEM instructors, Brian Smith and Gabe Bustos, visited the school several days each week.
Smith founded EduSerc, a nonprofit organization that has been around for 20 years. He has a background in tutoring and training.
Bustos is with GreeNEWit (now called OUR Schools), an energy company that offers an educational component.
As engineers, the pair provided a different perspective than what the students get from their teachers.
“The passion these guys brought excited the kids,” Brewer said.
Staff development teacher Lora Ambrose said the lessons were hands-on.
The teachers noticed that the students asked more questions and developed more curiosity.
“They worked in groups, collaborating, sharing ideas, listening to each other,” Brewer said.
“And dealing with failure,” Ambrose added.
Brewer said the children loved it and looked forward to the lessons.
Akili Reece, a fourth-grader, said his favorite activity was generating electricity from fruits and vegetables.
“We used different metals and attached them to a voltmeter to read the volt levels,” he said.
Fiona Tworkowski, also a fourth-grader, liked growing microgreens.
“We learned how we can grow food anywhere and anytime of the year and how it’s better for the environment,” she said.
Claire Strosnider, a second-grader, enjoyed the STEM program because it made learning about science more fun.
“It made me want to be a teacher more so I could make learning fun for other students too,” she said.
The greenhouse, a large geodesic dome, was constructed in a courtyard. It was completed too late for growing this season, but the young scientists plan to start an after-school club next year.
They hope to use some of what they grow in the cafeteria and sell some to parents, using the funds for maintenance and supplies.
Sherwood Elementary and a private school in Prince George’s County are the first schools to offer the Green STEM Residency Program.
“All around, this has been a super big part of our year and an integral experience for every kid in this school, even the kids in special education classes,” Brewer said.
“I think we have created some scientists out of this experience,” she said. “They are motivated and inspired.”
Brewer said she hopes they will capitalize on the energy and carry it forward into next school year. While they will not participate in a residency program next year, she said they will continue to work with EduSerc and OUR Schools.
Terri Hogan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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