Outfitted with pipe cleaners, aluminum foil, wire, tape, glue and a plethora of colorful felt balls, a group of local elementary school students had one mission: to build a pollinator.
But the job wasn’t done once their grand creations were finished. The students then had to see if their devices would actually collect pollen from various types of environments (AKA a flat petri dish or a narrow tube) and move it to a different location. The goal? To mimic how bugs transfer pollen from one flower to another.
After a rocky start, rising first grader Rex broke into a big grin when he figured out how to use his newly crafted tool.
“I had to change it to the other side,” Rex explains of how he collected pollen from a skinny tube. As it turned out, the fuzzy pipe cleaner stem of his pollinator worked just as well as the felt ball on top.
The College of Charleston wraps up its first-ever Elementary Engineers camp for first through fifth graders on Aug. 5, 2016. Aimed at giving elementary school students summer learning opportunities, the free program offered two, two-week sessions, including one exclusively for students at Burns Elementary School in North Charleston. A second camp, which concludes Friday, was open to all local students at the College’s main campus in downtown Charleston. The College of Charleston Foundation helped fund the program, which served 125 children, through grants from the American Honda Foundation and Dominion Energy.
Teacher Education Professor Laura Brock says each week students tackled different aspects of science and engineering. One week it was building pollinators. The next it was designing water filters.
“It’s all about solving an engineering problem,” Brock says.
After a week of preparing for the big build with research, vocabulary lessons and a field trip to the Medical University of South Carolina’s Urban Garden, elementary school teacher Stephanie Haecherl encouraged her group of first and second graders to think about the size, shape and texture of their pollinators – and which designs and materials would best grasp the plant dust.
“See, sometimes it’s about modifications, making changes a little bit,” she tells her students.
Haecherl is among a group of 30 teachers from the Charleston County School District working with the College’s Department of Teacher Education as part of the grant program. In addition to the summer camp, College faculty provided specialized training to the teachers using an engineering curriculum designed by the Museum of Science, Boston.
The Department of Teacher Education will continue working with Charleston County educators, including teachers at Ellington and Mitchell elementary schools, during the upcoming school year, Brock says. The effort will bring the science curriculum to around 1,200 students.
“It’s a great opportunity to expand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum to local students, including those who might not have access to these types of learning experiences,” Brock says.
And camper Rex offered up a revelation that demonstrates why hands-on STEM learning is so important. Excitedly, he proclaimed he’d found an alternate use for his pollinator.
Wildly bobbing the pipe cleaner with a wadded up piece of foil looped onto the end like a lure, he shouts “You can go fishing with it!”