Some Buffalo Public School students spent a half-day at Buffalo State to explore science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. It is part of the city schools STEM Experience, a private/public partnership facilitated by the University at Buffalo. WBFO's Focus on Education Reporter Eileen Buckley says the sessions included hands-on workshops for young students.
About 75-third graders from the Hamlin Park School visited Buff State classrooms, learning about technology and computers. Dr. Ramona Santa Maria is an Associate Professor in the Computer Information Systems Department at Buffalo State. Santa Maria took them through a workshop of Coding for Computer Animation, explaining to students how computer coding works.
“So what we are trying to have students is write out the steps of how you would program something because when you are doing any kind of computer program or animation you have to tell whatever the animated object is what to do very specifically,” said Santa Maria.
Students were given an exercise with pen and paper and how do you draw a ‘happy face’.
"And most of the students they draw a circle, but actual the first step is pick up the pencil. This is part of the critical thinking part is making the students do an exercise, but then going backwards to say ‘hey what could I have done differently’ and how could I have expanded this to be better,” Santa Maria explained.
As the students continued their STEM workshops they also learned about laser technology and 3-D printing. They had a chance to tour the night sky inside Buff State's Ferguson Planetarium. John Siskar is Senior Adviser for Buffalo State Educational Pipeline Initiatives.
“The more that we can make connections for the children into how all the subjects relate to each other, the more critical it is. The same with literacy, the same with the arts and all of those areas,” explained Siskar.
Back in the classroom during the animation workshop two of the students, Rihanna and Harmony completed their written description of how to 'draw a happy face'.
“We draw the circle, we draw the eyes, draw the nose, draw the month,” replied the students. “Do you like learning like this?” “Yes, it’s fun. Surprising,” stated the third graders.
Both Siskar and Santa Maria noted that the best way to attract students to STEM is starting them at an earlier age
“Just getting them interested films and videos, first at a young age, but third to sixth grade is really important and crucial because that’s where we really have a our bright lights and that’s where we can really start to inspire students to go into these fields and grab that interest,” replied Santa Maria.
“An artist, mathematician and scientist are walking in the field and they run across a tree. Now I don’t have a punch line, but I can tell you the three of them look at that same tree very differently, and we collectively, need all three of those perspectives if we are really going to understand what that tree is all about,” responded Siskar.