Bishop Verot, Tutor Corps students lead STEM lessons for children attending Guadalupe Center’s summer program

A typical complaint many teenagers have about school is that it’s boring. They just sit there and listen to a teacher lecture from a textbook.

Rather than let the cycle repeat, an enthusiastic group of 12 students from Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers decided to create their own classes, a series of interactive, hands-on activities centered around Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

Judging by the smiles on children’s faces and classrooms buzzing with activity, these classes were anything but boring.

Bishop Verot students spent two weeks in June working with children in Guadalupe Center’s Summer Enrichment Program, coordinating and presenting lessons that covered extreme weather (meteorology), earthquake towers (civil engineering and geometry), dinosaurs (science), egg drop (physical science), bridge building (engineering) and more. Students in Guadalupe Center’s college preparatory Tutor Corps Program worked side-by-side with the Bishop Verot students to deliver a memorable two weeks of hands-on learning.

After a presentation about boats and the principles of buoyancy and wind direction, for example, children built their own sailboats using their newfound engineering skills. They had to choose a material that would float and select the best sail size. Children then held a race to see whose vessel was the fastest, using handheld fans to replicate the wind and propel their crafts. They also built rollercoasters out of pretzels during a lesson on static and kinetic energy, and used their creativity to bend straws into a series of trapezoid shapes.

How old were the children participating in the STEM lessons? First- and second-graders.

The concepts were advanced, yet children weren’t overwhelmed or lost in high-level terminology. They simply were absorbing knowledge, and their facial expressions told the real story – they were engaged, excited and intrigued at every turn.

Students in Bishop Verot’s Scholars Academy created the “STEM 4 Students” program in 2017 as a means of providing STEM education and inspiration to children in rural and low socioeconomic communities. After a four-day pilot last year, the program expanded to serve twice as many children in 2018 over the course of two weeks.

“Our children thoroughly enjoyed every minute of their STEM classes, and the best part was that high school students – not professional teachers or college professors – designed the curriculum,” said Dawn Montecalvo, Guadalupe Center president. “They created an academic program they knew would be educational, but also fun.”

Bishop Verot senior Claire Sattler, one of STEM 4 Students’ founders, said plans already are in the works for next summer, and the group hopes to expand to a second location.

“It’s really great watching kids get excited about STEM,” said Sattler, 16. “Science, math and engineering are subjects I was always good at, and we’re showing other kids just how cool STEM can be.”

Guadalupe Center, a nonprofit organization focused on breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee, partners with a multitude of area individuals, businesses and organizations to deliver high-quality educational and enrichment programs. The center operates an Early Childhood Education Program, After-School and Summer Enrichment Program, and the Tutor Corps Program.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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