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STARBASE Program Provides STEM Lessons to 5th Grade Students

This school year, USD 202 began a partnership with STARBASE KC, a program with the goal of motivating students to explore STEM options as they continue their education.

This school year, USD 202 began a partnership with STARBASE KC, a program funded by the Department of Defense with the goal of motivating students to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as they continue their education. STARBASE is a five day program that involves 5th grade students being taken to the program site where they participate in various STEM lessons and activities, all of which meet state and national academic standards. Students explore concepts in physics, chemistry, technology, engineering, and mathematic operations and applications. The lessons and activities are led by STARBASE staff and supported by USD 202 classroom teachers, who attend the program with the students.

Students shared that they most enjoyed the hands-on activities and projects they took part in. These activities included rocket launches, EV3 Robotics, and 3D CAD design. "In my personal opinion, I liked the rocket activity the most because it was a built up process that was leading up to launching the rocket straight up into the sky. We even got to keep our rockets and it felt like a core memory to even get a chance to go there," said Okiwa, a 5th grade student at Oak Grove Elementary.

According to STARBASE, employment in science and engineering occupations is expected to increase at almost four times the rate for all occupations during this decade. This is a driving factor behind the need for the program. While students enjoy the hands-on activities and experiments, a main takeaway the program hopes to achieve is exposing students to various STEM career opportunities. "I think STARBASE offers students a different perspective on the STEM subjects. It gives them the opportunity to see how each of the subjects relates to real, everyday life and jobs. It shows them what people who enjoy these subjects can do out in the working field, as well as give them more opportunity for hands-on learning. This was especially great for my visual and kinesthetic learners. It offered them the chance to make their learning stick better and connect to what they were learning about," said Marissa Summey, 5th grade teacher at Oak Grove Elementary.

An advantage of schools participating in the STARBASE program is that it provides materials, equipment, and resources that are not always feasible to have in an elementary school classroom. These resources allow for more opportunities for hands-on learning of the various science concepts. "Several of our students make better connections to what they are learning when they can manipulate it, see what it really does, and connect it to something they may have prior knowledge to outside of the classroom," said Summey.

Kelly, a fifth grade student who attended the program with Oak Grove Elementary this year, shared the same sentiment, “I’ve enjoyed STARBASE a lot because they really help you learn but also include you in activities to engage you while learning. It is very hands on and I like hands on activities because it helps you learn and get a visual view of what has happened. Instead of just sitting down and listening they really involve you!”

This school year, 5th grade students throughout the district had the opportunity to participate in STARBASE, and because of the positive feedback received by students and teachers, the decision was made to continue the partnership into next school year. USD 202 looks forward to continuing our partnership with STARBASE to provide high-quality STEM programming to our 5th grade students!

About the partnership, STARBASE KC Deputy Director, Beth Fritts, said, "STARBASE KC is very grateful for the opportunity given to us to share our 'hands-on, minds-on' STEM lessons with the 5th graders of the Turner school district. Our sincere hope is that by introducing the students to a wide variety of STEM experiences, they can make a more informed choice as to their future career goals."