DAVIS – Eighth grade classes from across West Virginia were invited to a fun, engaging, content-based experience learning about STEM education and career opportunities through the Youth Science Discovery Experience field trips. The events are being held on weekends at the National Youth Science Center in Davis and will continue through May 7. National Youth Science Foundation Director of National Youth Science Camp John P. Giroir said the idea is to bring two school groups from different counties to the center to allow for interaction while learning.
“There is a social and cultural side to this, but the main focus is the students learn about Tucker County and the area in terms of different science aspects,” Giroir said. “Two themes we focus on are water and energy. These are really interconnected and when you look at Tucker County, there are both in a variety of aspects that make use of water.”
Giroir said students get a close up look at the wind turbines and the Mt. Storm Power Plant.
“You don’t get to see these in other parts of the state,” Giroir said. “They learn how the power plant makes use of the energy resources that are around and how they interact and use the lake. They also learn the reality that coal mining continues and there are lots of positives with any type of energy use and there are some impacts and some of the negatives. They learn about PH and water levels and filtration. There are great examples in the environment of all those things.”
Giroir said the National Youth Science Center is a unique building.
“They learn about using water for the radiant heating in the floors and about using natural light,” Giroir said. “This is the first year we are offering this program. We were fortunate to get support from the Governor’s STEM Initiate and from EQT and the Jeanne G. and Lawson W. Hamilton Jr. Family Foundation, specifically to have this program for West Virginia eighth grade students.”
Giroir said teachers were able to make application for the program when information was distributed by the West Virginia Science Teachers Association and said the application was simple.
“Everything is paid for during the weekend and that eliminates cost barriers or any socio-economic barriers for them to attend,” Giroir said. “We have had a broad mix of students which is exactly what we wanted to see in this program.”
Giroir said students worked in small groups to come up with their questions and worked through the scientific process.
“That is another thing we emphasize – the scientific process,” Giroir said. “On Saturday evening, we have local scientists, graduate students and folks with a STEM background speak with the students. They get a lot of informal interaction with these community and the students.”
Amelia Conner and Leah Beaton worked on a project with instructor Diane Hayes to investigate which light bulbs are better for the environment.
“We tested the lumens or brightness, heat or temperature and the average watts,” Amelia and Leah said. “We also toured this building and saw the composting toilet. It was something I have never seen before. We enjoyed talking with folks working in the STEM fields. We were able to go to Blackwater Falls and it was beautiful.”
Amelia said the area is different from where she is from. “We live in a society that is so dependent on electronics and we don’t focus on pollution and how important the environment is,” Amelia said.
“We are not used to this much snow,” Leah said. “It is very pretty and fun to be here and see that.”
The girls said they enjoyed the weekend experience because they will be going into high school next year and it has helped them focus on what classes they need to take.
Diane Hayes, science instructor at Horace Mann Middle School in Kanawha County, said the weekend will reinforce what she teaches in her classes.
“It especially reinforces the scientific method,” Hayes said. “We stress that a lot. They have covered things that are not in the eighth grade curriculum and that is nice. I don’t know if the students will remember the science or the socializing part the most. This is such a new experience for most of them.”
Student Elliott Blackwood said his team’s project tested to see whether solar panels or batteries emitted more energy.
“We are testing that out little by little,” Elliott said.
Each member of this group plans to choose a future career in science. Madilynn Wysong said she wants to be a marine biologist, Nadia Osmon wants to work in some field of science, Grant Swift wants to be a herpetologist and Elliott Blackwood is looking toward a career in engineering.
Madilynn said she has enjoyed the experiments and has enjoyed meeting new people and hanging out with them. “We eat together and have made new friends.”
Grant said he has enjoyed the activities and making new friends.
“It has been fun and I like meeting new people where we enjoy a common goal,” Elliott said. “We have common interests. It has been a fun weekend learning about science and math.”
Additional information about the National Youth Science Foundation is available online at www.nysf.com. The facility is located at 494 River Stone Road in Davis.