Over 750 elementary and middle
school students spent the summer engineering bioplastics, building model rockets
and experimenting with materials to produce common products like Play-Doh at McNeese State University’s STEM Academy.
This 11-week program, which wraps up Aug. 9, seeks
to encourage critical thinking and problem solving in students through hands-on
activities that help them learn science, technology, engineering and
mathematical concepts and skills.
"Our goal is to introduce students to
the idea that engineering and other STEM subjects can be interesting and fun,”
says STEM Academy coordinator LaDonna McKnight. "Even if some students
eventually pursue non-STEM careers, they still have a background in how to
develop an idea and create something from it, which is a critical skill in any field.”
McNeese’s STEM Academy is an
outgrowth of the university’s Engineering is Elementary (EiE) after school program, introduced to private and
public schools in Calcasieu Parish in 2016.
With the planned expansion of EiE
to more schools in the parish next year, and demand for early STEM education on
the rise across the country, the Academy gives students the skills they’ll need
to succeed in the classroom and beyond, adds McKnight.
In one activity, students grades
1-3 are tasked with evaluating how effective different materials and methods
are at cleaning up oil spills, a process intended to introduce them to
environmental engineering. In another, students learn physics concepts such as
balance and force by building and experimenting with beam, arch and suspension
Outside the classroom activities,
students take field trips to learning sites around Lake Charles, including the
Calcasieu Parish Library and the Port of Lake Charles.
"Our goal is to broaden horizons and
spark ideas,” says McKnight. "But we still want the students to have fun. When
a parent tells me that their kids get up in the morning and are excited to come
here and learn, I feel like we’ve made a difference.”
This year’s Academy is sponsored by
SASOL, Phillips 66, KPLC, Hoffoss Devall Personal Injury Attorneys, Suddenlink
by Altice, Kiwanis Club of Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish School Board, Lotte
Chemical and Coca-Cola.
To find out more about STEM Academy,
or call 337-562-4137.