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STEM inspires students to be innovative


According to the U.S. Department of Education there has been an approximate 14 percent increase in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers between 2010 and 2020, and expects those numbers to increase even further into the future. As technology progressively advances, employers look for personnel based not on what they know, but rather what they can do with what they know.


To prepare children for future careers, teachers at General Stanford Elementary School and volunteers hosted a Family STEM Night for students and their parents at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Feb. 9, 2017. The family night was designed to help the teachers and U.S. service member volunteers and civilians to understand how STEM incorporates into their careers, hobbies and everyday lives.


“Our goal was to bring parents to the school so they could see the types of STEM activities that we do at school on a regular basis with the kids,” said Karen Canfield, General Stanford Elementary School Talented and Gifted program teacher and STEM lead. “We try to bring in the parents to let them know that we are doing things that are innovative that you probably don’t typically see in a lot of schools and we encourage parents to continue the same types of things at home.”


Volunteers from various professions across the installation worked with students to relate the challenges to their career fields. Students worked with engineers from the 633rd Civil Engineer Division to build towers as tall as possible, while still maintaining stability.


Activities also included a catapult challenge, where students were given 10 popsicle sticks, seven rubber bands and a spoon. They were then instructed to use these items to create a catapult to send supplies, in this case, a marshmallow, across the room to their partner, a U.S. Army Soldier.


“It was pretty neat to see the kinds of things they’re teaching the kids and preparing them for their future selves,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Johnson, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 210th Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade instructor, as his daughter launched a paper glider across the room. “I’d like to be able to use some of these activities with her at home as well.”


Teachers at General Stanford Elementary School work to incorporate STEM principles into everyday classroom activities, and balance fun with learning to foster growth and interests among the students within the STEM subjects.


“It’s really about the careers of the future,” said Canfield. “School is nothing like it was 20 years ago; now we want children to think outside the box. We want to encourage them to try their ideas, to do tests, to innovate.”


While Canfield works with the Newport News city school system to incorporate STEM principles into lessons in the classroom, she also encourages parents to integrate them at home. She looks forward to hosting events after school in the future to continue the involvement and inspire creativity within the students.


“A lot of the students came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it, so I think we did a great job and we’re hoping to be able to host at least one more before the school year ends,” said Canfield. “It’s our goal to keep the community involved because we see so much more success when parents, teachers and community members work together. We have to be invested in the leaders of the future and build their confidence, their innovation.”


For more information about STEM activities or to volunteer for events, contact General Stanford Elementary School at 757-888-3200.