High School students from Kent and Dorchester counties gathered at Washington College Nov. 6 to take part in a STEM day workshop. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and refers to a nation-wide movement to get students more interested and involved in these fields. There are programs to help students learn the basics and catch up to grade level as well as programs to give gifted and talented students advanced challenges.
About 75 students from Kent County High School and Cambridge-South Dorchester High School gathered in the college’s John S. Toll Science Center to take part in laboratory sessions. The labs were taught by college faculty and students from the biology, environmental science, chemistry, math, and physics departments. Each high school student had the opportunity to take two labs in different subjects, including toxicology, forensic anthropology, the synthesis of fluorenol, the impact of environmental stressors on organisms, origami, the speed of light, and the optics of the human eye. Each lab focused on how science can help shed light on real problems. For example, one lab featured crime scene techniques used to determine if a bus driver was responsible for an accident. Another looked at the heart rates of earthworms. Who knew that could be significant? But it is.
Between labs, the students were treated to a campus tour and lunch at Hodson Hall Commons. Washington College provided the lunch and labs at no charge to the students or their schools. The Maryland Business Roundtable picked up the cost of the buses that brought the students for the day.
Prof. Mindy Reynolds, Chair of the college’s Biology department, said the day-long program was an opportunity for the students to experience the STEM opportunities at the college. Reynolds organized the day’s events at Washington College. She said it was the first time the college had sponsored such a program for high school students. She said she heard one student say he had never enjoyed a laboratory session before. His teacher reported that she had never before seen him as “totally engaged” as he was during the lab experience at the college.
The STEM workshop was part of the Next Generation Scholars External Learning Experiences college readiness program sponsored by the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education. The Maryland Business Roundtable (MBRT) has sponsored similar workshops for 10 years, with sessions at a number of colleges around the state. This is the first year for the Next Generation Scholars (NGS) program at Washington College. Aundra Anderson, NGS Coordinator for Kent County, and Lauri Bell, NGS Coordinator for Dorchester County, organized and led the STEM Day for the schools, while Professor Reynolds took the lead at the college. The MBRT also hosted students from five Eastern Shore counties, including Dorchester and Kent, at the 2019 Baltimore National College Fair and at Aberdeen Proving Grounds for Discovery Fest 2019.
The MBRT also administers programs that help students apply and go to college. And its Maryland Scholars Speakers Bureau and STEM Specialists in the Classroom programs bring experts from a variety of fields to high school students around the state.