Energy Fair to Students
On January 23rd, fourth and fifth grade students from Johnson, Linlee, Mary Todd and Russell Cave elementary schools enjoyed a short coach bus ride to the University of Kentucky for day-long fair, which featured displays by energy-related organizations from both inside and outside the university. Along the way, they watched an energy DVD we provided. Each bus was equipped with monitors above the seats.
Before touring the exhibits, each class got to see a 20 minute stage performance. The on-stage live action included: a demonstration by CAER researchers of combustion via an invisible ink experiment; The Kentucky Geological Survey explained carbon sequestration; and a representative from the Kentucky NEED program illustrated how electricity travels by using the students as conductors.
After watching the demos, we gave the students bags to hold the goodies they would collect at the individual stops and they were on their way. Among the more popular events were: the E.ON U.S. mini-city and Touchstone Energy's kinetic energy demonstration using live reptiles. Some of the other stations included: Bluegrass Community and Technical College, whose station featured tornado tubes and a magnet board. Exhibitors from UK's College of Engineering explained greenhouse gasses (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering) and snap circuitry (Department of Electrical Engineering), while CAER scientists showed the students how to make batteries.
After touring the first half of the exhibits, the classes had lunch in an adjoining dining room. They then visited any exhibits that they missed on the early round. As the kids gathered their coats and left, we gave each a small basketball.
Out of the thousands of school children in Lexington, Kentucky, these kids were chosen from elementary schools whose science scores are among the lowest in town. We worked with the science-education experts in the county's school system to ensure we were providing something that was actually needed. Bringing them on board at the beginning was an essential element in gathering the input that prevented this event from being a well-intentioned, but superfluous do-gooder's exercise. Instead, we targeted the kids who needed it the most and worked within the curriculum that the state mandates.
Small events like this one won't solve our energy problems, but we have to find a way to get kids excited about working in math and science. We see our program as a spoke in the larger wheel that represents UK's overall endeavor aimed at increasing the number of students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math. This is a start.