Wallace State hosts STEAM Academy for area 5th graders

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North Central Alabama STEM Ecosystem Coordinator Aubry Lovell conducts a class on germs and the importance of washing our hands correctly during a recent STEAM camp at Wallace State Community College. (Wallace State)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Wallace State Community College recently hosted a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) Academy for area fifth-grade students at the School of Nursing and Center for Science.

Over 30 students were selected by their science teachers to attend the event. Wallace State faculty led students in lessons and activities demonstrating various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) concepts such as mathematical probability, how physical forces act on a building and the importance of correctly washing your hands.

North Central Alabama STEM Ecosystem Coordinator Aubry Lovell said STEAM Academy is designed to be a fun day for students to engage with and learn about various topics across STEAM fields.

“STEAM Academy is a day for local fifth graders who show strength in STEM. Students are nominated by their teachers, and they spend the day on campus learning from our faculty. We work to integrate all student disciplines into a cohesive learning experience, and we provide a variety of hands-on experiences that promote experiential learning and problem solving,” said Lovell. “The future job market is leaning towards needing a workforce that is STEM proficient and early exposure can prepare students for these future demands. Even if a student does not pursue a career in STEM, through our camps and academies, they can learn how to become critical thinkers, innovators and problem solvers.”

During STEAM Academy, students were separated into groups and guided through three different activities led by Wallace State faculty.

Aubry Lovell uses a blacklight to demonstrate the importance of washing hands correctly. (Wallace State)

The first activity was facilitated by Lovell and called “Glow Away Germs.” During the activity, students were split into two groups. One half of the classroom rubbed a lotion on their hands and began shaking hands with the half that had clean hands. The lotion contained tiny bits of plastic that simulated germs and glowed once cast under ultraviolet light. A timer was set, and students were encouraged to shake as many hands as possible before being sent to wash their hands like they typically would. After washing, Lovell used an ultraviolet flashlight to show how many germs were still present on their hands. The activity’s purpose was to teach students about the different kinds of microbes and the importance of washing their hands correctly.  

In the second activity called “Paper Towers,” Wallace State Biology instructor Susanna Heinze combined science with arts and crafts. During this activity, students had to construct a stable tower out of paper to demonstrate the importance of shape on the strength of a material, how distributing weight helps create stability and how physical forces such as gravity act on a building.

The third activity, “Deal or No Deal,” was facilitated by Wallace State Math Department Chair Brandon Smith. Based off the gameshow of the same name, students played a version that demonstrated chance and mathematical probability.  

Lovell is a Wallace State Community College alumna. She said STEAM Academy is just one example of the role Wallace State plays in enhancing STEM education in the community.   

“I love Wallace State because we are community focused, and we want everyone who we come in contact with to leave better than we found them. We want to teach them life skills and curriculum, but we also want to care for them too. Everyone is welcome here no matter your age,” said Lovell. “We work with Pre-K, we work with high schoolers, we work with college students and we work with adults. We have a very big educational focus, and we want everyone to learn something and be better for our community.”

Wallace State Community College will host STEAM Camps over the summer on July 8-12 for third-fourth graders and July 22-26 for sixth-eighth graders. Registration for STEAM Camp begins March 1 and is open to all area elementary and middle school students. For more information about STEAM Academy and STEAM Camp, email Aubry Lovell at aubry.lovell@wallacestate.edu or 256-352-8105