Get SMART: School activity day tests skills|
by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs
4/27/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Children at Maxwell Elementary Middle School had a chance to become a little SMART-er April 20. The school held its sixth annual Science, Math, Aerospace, Research and Technology, or SMART Day. The themed day was filled with events based in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known by educators as STEM.
Melissa Hayes, the school's principal, said the day allows students to put curriculum into action.
"A lot of schools have a field day in the spring where kids get to play and participate in sports, so we decided to take that with a twist," she said. "We have a lot of science, math and engineering activities planned today. It's great to be able to get kids actively engaged in learning. When you get the kids actively engaged in learning, it sparks their curiosity to want to know more."
Teachers, base agencies, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and community representatives sponsored 18 events, everything from an astronaut training center to an exhibit teaching how to clean up an oil spill.
"They are exposed to new vocabulary and new ideas at SMART Day. 'Bernoulli, Bernoulli, Bernoulli...' one first-grade class chanted as they moved through the hall. This year, a lot of events were also focused on caring for our environment since Earth Day was on Sunday," said Rebecca Hill, the program's organizer. "Often, big days like this are strictly focused on sports events. In the 21st century, students need to be introduced to the disciplines in STEM fields. We want to encourage them to find relevance in mathematics and science as they pursue their future goals."
Hill originally pitched the idea as an aerospace day for the school, and SMART Day grew out of that. The program has grown each year, with new events and ways for children to learn interactively.
"I proposed my idea to the faculty and we gathered as a team to create SMART Day. It takes everyone to make the day come together, from the event planners to the administration, teachers, PTO, parents, maintenance personnel, parents and community members," Hill said.
Student Emma Higby said she had a "blast" learning about centrifugal force from the "twin spin," and Newton's Law from launching rockets. "It's one day a year where we get to have fun and learn stuff at the same time," Higby said.
Hill echoed Higby's thoughts, saying SMART Day offered children a fun, exciting way to learn.
"I have a passion for STEM education, and I believe it is vital to America's future. We need to excite students, teachers, and parents about STEM. We need to communicate and collaborate with our community to do whatever it takes to enable students to fulfill dreams and reach their highest potential."