Nurturing Youths’ Interest in STEM: National STEM Day 2021
National STEM Day is celebrated every year on November 8 to encourage youth to explore their interests in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and math. YWCA affiliates across the country took part in celebrating through various youth and family activities. YWCA Minneapolis’ two Beacons locations took on the spirit of the day and each hosted unique STEM opportunities for program participants.
Through a partnership with Learn2Build, 4th and 5th grade students from YWCA Beacon Learning Center at Hmong International Academy had the opportunity to build their own birdhouses from construction kits. This was a multi-day project, with the first day focused on painting personalized designs on the birdhouses. In the following days, students utilized construction plans and wood glue to complete the project.
The Creation Process
Beacons participants at Franklin Middle School engaged in an infamous STEM activity: the egg drop challenge. The goal of the egg drop is simple – to design a container that lessens the impact on an egg when dropped from high places. Designing something that keeps an egg from breaking when dropped from increasing heights is less simple than it sounds. In groups of three, the teams developed their design plans based on available materials: socks, cotton balls, balloons, straws, paper cups, tape, hot glue and more. The only stipulation was that they could not monopolize a resource, and they had to see if the egg was still intact after a drop. For twenty minutes, teams worked diligently developing, discussing and iterating their designs.
Trial and Error
Finally, it was time to test their projects. One by one, the tallest student in the room dropped egg containers from a height above his head. All the eggs survived this first drop. From there we moved out to the main atrium and each team dropped their container from the balcony. The participants crowded around, got silent and loudly exclaimed each time an egg hit the ground, noticing the different sounds of impact that told us if the egg had survived or not. About half of the teams remained and so we moved up even higher, to a second story balcony, where we went through the same routine of dropping the remaining eggs. Of the thirteen teams taking part in the activity, only two teams kept their eggs from breaking.
Creating STEM Opportunities to Empower Youth
While the idea of creating STEM opportunities can feel intimidating, it is important to remember that STEM is a natural part of so many things. Experiences in which youth are able to design, test and redesign to solve a problem, or complete a project, while having space for individuality and creativity, exposes youth to the primary tenants of STEM. Normalizing these opportunities can demystify and empower youth to engage in STEM-based fields and experiences throughout their lives.
If you are interested or may know somebody interested in hosting an intern next summer, we are always looking for future partners. We are grateful for the strong, smart and bold individuals out there that are willing to take a stand to bridge the gender gap in the professional STEM world!