|Whitewater Academy students show off "pizzas" made of recyclable trash|
Oct 3, 2012 – Tornadoes in a box, human-sized bugs and pizzas topped with trash may sound like a disaster – but they meant fun AND learning to more than 500 fifth graders at the STEM Outdoor Learning Fair on Sept. 28 at the Energy Explorium on Lake Norman.
The Fair was organized by the Catawba River District, a regional group working to create a model for sustainable living along our region’s main source of water and its largest wildlife habitat.
Science, technology, engineering and math skills (often called STEM for short) have become the keys to getting good jobs. Fifth grade, educators tell us, is the crucial time for getting young learners turned on to learning science and math.
|Students listen to closing remarks - and wait for the surprise conclusion.|
At the fair, experts from businesses, colleges and environmental groups led hands-on lessons in topics ranging from forestry to entomology.
The adults also shared their own journeys from childhood dreams to successful careers built on math and science.
Most fairs end with fireworks, and this one did, too – though of a suitably natural sort, as you’ll discover if you watch the event video. Here's a clue: the surprise came in a box with air holes and was delivered by the Carolina Raptor Center.
See the video
CLICK HERE to view the STEM Fair video on the River District's YouTube channel.
The event drew fifth graders from five that serve the Catawba River District: Ida Rankin and Catawba Heights elementary schools in Gaston County and Mountain Island Elementary, River Oaks Academy and Whitewater Academy in Mecklenburg. Principals and teachers have worked with the River District to plan this event and other activities such as schoolyard gardens.
|From left: David Moore, Heath Morrison, Lory Morrow, William Upchurch.|
Both Gaston and Charlotte-Mecklenburg school and elected officials came to lend their support and encourage the students at the close of the fair:
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Supt. Heath Morrison
- Gaston Schools Board Chair William Marcus Upchurch, Sr.
- Gaston Schools Deputy Supt. Lory Morrow
- Charlotte City Councilman James Mitchell, a member of the River District Advisory Board
- Mount Holly Mayor Pro Tem David Moore
Many volunteers manned the learning centers
The heart of the Learning Fair was 19 stations set up on the lawn next to the Energy Explorium. Alisa Wickliff, assistant director of the UNC Charlotte Center for STEM Education, helped plan the event and the 19 stations. Dozens of volunteers from local groups and businesses taught groups of students who rotated from center to center every 20 minutes or so.
Groups manning the stations were:
|Belmont Abbey College volunteers|
- Belmont Abbey College – Elementary Education
- NC State Education Forest at Mt. Island
- Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation
- UNC Charlotte Recycling
- Mecklenburg County Air Quality
- Mecklenburg County Environmental Health Groundwater
- UNC Charlotte Center for STEM Education
- Grease Free Education Program by Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities
- NC Wildlife Federation
- NC Cooperative Extension – Gaston County
- Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Elementary Science
- Huber Technology
- Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville
- DoYourPart ‐ Terri Bennett
- Recycling –Mecklenburg County
- Weather ‐ John Wendel, Meteorologist
- Vulcan Materials
- Charlotte‐Mecklenburg County Storm Water Services
- Carolina Raptor Center
- Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville
- Huber Technology
- Piedmont Natural Gas
- ReVenture Park
- Duke Energy – Energy Explorium
Also providing financial support:
- Charlotte Paint Company
- Citizens South Bank
- Griffin Brothers Companies
- Mountain Island Fitness
- Northlake Mall
About The Catawba River DistrictThe Catawba River District is a regional organization committed to sustainable and vibrant communities, strong schools and economic development for a 16,000-acre area along the Catawba River that includes the historic downtowns of Mount Holly and Belmont and the U.S. National Whitewater Center.
The Catawba River District and its partners have developed several programs to promote STEM learning within River District schools and the broader community, including:
- Schoolyard gardens - The Catawba River District launched schoolyard gardens at Whitewater Academy and Whitewater Middle School last spring. Students and teachers tended the gardens until June. Since then, teachers and other volunteers have come daily to keep the gardens going until the students return in August.
- K20 Learning World - The Catawba River District and a team of science education experts have designed a network of free, public STEM learning centers at parks, greenways, and other locations around the River District. These centers will help youngsters, parents and even college-level researchers build their STEM knowledge.
- Farm To School program - This project will create a working farm on private land and partner with nearby middle and high schools on programs such as animal husbandry, hydroponics and agribusiness. The project includes a food hub to process and market food from school gardens and small farms across the region.
Stay in touch with the Catawba River DistrictContact us: Edna Chirico, Executive Director, 704-562-8847 or emailEdna
- Our main website: CatawbaRiverDistrict.org
- Community news: CatawbaRiverViews.org
- Community blogs: Catawbariverviews.blogspot.com
- Facebook: Facebook.com/CatawbaRiverDistrict
- Twitter: Twitter.com/catawbariverdis
- YouTube: YouTube.com/user/CatawbaRiverDistrict