By DOUGLAS W. MOTLEY – Senior Writer
Hundreds of parents, grandparents, students and teachers assembled on the playground at Valley of Enchantment Elementary School from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 27 for three hours of educational fun as children in grades K-5 participated in hands-on learning projects ranging from string and paper cup telecommunications to identifying prehistoric animal remnants and virtual reality welding.
In between viewing each other’s science projects, students played on the school’s jungle gym and slide and waited in line for nachos and burritos from Buddy’s BBQ, sandwiches and fruit juice beverages from Aquas Compita and cotton candy from another food vendor.
Dusty and Goldie Gomes were found stirring mixtures of cornstarch and water until it hardened into a solid in an experiment designed to prove that chemical reactions can turn liquid into a solid object. Nearby, Susie and her father were conversing with each other over a string and paper cup telephone. Susie explained that that she had to hold the string tight so it could vibrate and make sound.
At another experiment station, Rim High School welding teacher Pete Ferrara was using what he described as “virtual reality” to teach children, who were wearing a welding helmet, how to safely weld on a monitor screen. “We can train students to weld safely, and it’s quicker and less expensive than using actual welding equipment,” Ferrara explained.
Meanwhile, in another area of the playground, William, who is in Mrs. Dosey’s class, was amazed by an assortment of prehistoric bones, huge snail shells and small pieces of dinosaur excrement. William said he really liked the Tyrannosaurus play toy best of all.
When asked why last Thursday’s event was important, longtime VOE teacher Mark Warhol told The Alpine Mountaineer, “We value this so much because it brings the community, the parents, grandparents and siblings together in one place. The real focus of the event is on real learning, not just learning about science, but hands-on learning that’s applied to real life situations.
“We implemented the STEM program here several years ago because it encourages critical thinking, analysis and collaboration in which students integrate the processes and concepts in real world science, technology, engineering and math,” Warhol added.