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Middle schoolers get hands-on STEM lessons at day camp

A group of ASEC graduate students and a biomedical engineering undergraduate student presented a first-ever Soil and Forensic Sciences STEM 4-H Day Camp for sixth-eighth grade youth.

“We are all passionate about STEM education and outreach,” said Mariah Awan, an ASEC doctoral student and one of the event organizers.

The event was a way to provide hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills to the 11 Tippecanoe County 4-H members who participated in the day camp. Participants learned about basic soil properties and analyzed soil to learn how forensic scientists use soil science to solve crimes. Participants also learned about soil pollution, and one of their tasks was to find a solution for cleaning up contaminated soil on a hypothetical site.

Awan said students do not always get such an opportunity to participate in hands-on STEM activities in schools. Not all schools may have soil science programs, or they might not be available to all students. Plus, it can be difficult for schools to provide so many hands-on learning activities due to budget constraints.

“I was really excited by how the kids were so enthusiastic about the activities,” Awan said.

Along with Awan, organizers included Mavis Akom, an ASEC doctoral student, Favour Ojike, an ASEC master’s student, and Caroline Rakowski, a senior biomedical engineering student. The ASEC graduate students drew inspiration from their work in ASEC 545 (Teaching STEM Through Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources) course taught by Hui-Hui Wang, associate professor of ASEC, and Neil Knobloch, professor of ASEC. ASEC staff members Jayne Price, Leslie Fairchild, and Richard Fox also assisted with the event.

Awan said the students hope to hold another event like this next year. Students interested in helping and other county Indiana 4-H programs who are interested should email Awan.

The day camp was possible thanks to donations to the ASEC department. Please consider donating to the ASEC General Gift Fund.

Photos from Soil and Forensic Sciences STEM 4-H Day Camp

4-H students work in a lab 4-H students investigate soil as part of the Soil and Forensic Sciences STEM 4-H Day Camp.
Grad student demonstrating to middle school student During a demonstration, Mavis Akom, ASEC doctoral student, shows a 4-H member the percentage of usable land for agriculture on the Earth using an apple.
Students watch forensic science experiment demonstration 4-H members watch Caroline Rakowski, a senior biomedical engineering student, demonstrate a forensic science experiment.
Students study a soil pollution case study 4-H members discuss a soil pollution case study with Mariah Awan, ASEC doctoral student.
Students work in a computer lab 4-H members investigate solutions to soil contamination in the ASEC computer lab with Mariah Awan, ASEC doctoral student.
4-H members review an experiment In one experiment, 4-H members examined soil samples to identify a match with an unknown sample and recorded their findings.

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