“There’s a lot for them to wonder about.”
Nancy Swords knows about the power of discovery. As the Deputy Director and Head of Visitor Experience at Cranbrook Institute of Science, she’s used to seeing a child’s eyes widen at the smallest thing.
Those moments occur often in Flint during the school year through an ongoing K-12 STEM outreach initiative run jointly by Cranbrook and Flint Community Schools. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Last Thursday, students at Doyle/Ryder Elementary School had the chance to experience the marvels of science when they participated in Flint Community Schools Young Scientists, a day of hands-on lessons and activities in the classroom. Each school in the Flint school district takes part throughout the academic year.
“We were so excited to have Cranbrook come to our school,” says Doyle/Ryder Elementary School Principal Kevelin Jones, who stepped into his position in August.“This will be my first time witnessing the programming. I’ve heard a lot about Cranbrook and the science opportunities they have brought to the school. I do know they’ve made our kids feel pretty special.”
During the 2016-2017 school year, Flint Community Schools Young Scientists reached over 9,400 Flint students through 230 classroom outreach programs. This year, the program aims to continue to deliver intensive STEM-based programming to students, parents and teachers in order to continue generating interest in STEM fields and to help prepare students, particularly those in grades 4 and 5, to perform well on standardized tests.
“The goal is to embrace the Flint community, and to ignite a passion in the students,” Swords comments. “The Young Scientists day offers them a more hands-on experience, exposure, and gets them excited about the natural world around them.”
The Young Scientists programming wouldn’t be possible without the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. As the main funding partner, they have supported Cranbrook since 2012 with a $520,000 grant to back the project. They are not, however,directly involved in planning the components of the program.
“The great work Cranbrook is doing reflects our interest in providing the best educational opportunities and support for our students,” says Jennifer Liversedge, Assistant to Chairman / CEO and Program Officer, for the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. “It helps supplement and strengthen what they are already learning, and the institute provides resources that may not be available.”
Swords, who was present for part of the day, saw that first-hand, as well as the eagerness on the part of the kids.
“We just had a blast, we really did. The students were completely rapt, and involved in their lessons. It was great.” Swords recognizes that Cranbrook comes with the skill level these children need. “It’s not just a one-size-fits-all program,” she concludes.
To that end, the institute tailors a particular lesson with a particular point of view toward each grade level: The first grade learned about the senses, the second grade about the effects of pollution on ground water, the third grade took in life cycles and heredity, while fourth graders examined electricity. Fifth graders learned how we use water—important information in light of the recent water crisis—while sixth graders took in the meaning behind chemical reactions.
“Each and every class got time,” says Principal Jones of Thursday’s programming.
Flint students are also afforded the opportunity to visit Cranbrook’s campus in Bloomfield Hills for field trips, and high schoolers can take internships at the institute. Families even attend parts of the programming.
“We see this as an opportunity to inform kids about the problems they can solve in the world,” says Swords. “This opens so many doors for them. The internship programs have been so successful too that we opened a second tier for returning students. The wait list was that tremendous.”
“Principal Jones couldn’t have stated it better: It was great day of science!”