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October 16th, 2011

K-12 Outreach Ideas Shared at Student Conference Workshop

By Elizabeth J. H. Guenther | Comments (0)
Frank Petrocelli lead the K-12 Student Chapter Workshop on Saturday morning. K-12 outreach is so vital to the future of science and engineering in the United States and its wonderful that so many student chapters are making it a priority. The AIChE K-12 outreach group seeks to increase their communication and coordination this year, so look forward to more articles on ChEnected and to newsletters highlighting success stories and ideas for maintaining great connections to the K-12 community and getting kids excited about science and engineering. Please visit the K-12 website at www.k12.aiche.org or email k12outreach@aiche.org for more information or to get involved.

University of Virginia's Wahoo Wizards

At the University of Virginia, the chemical engineering department has had a group called “Wahoo Wizards” that has been visiting elementary schools and influencing young minds for the past 11 years. Over that time, the Wizards have doubled their number of experiments and tripled the number of schools and groups they work with. A few of the experiments that they do are: making gak, egg in a bottle, and freezing objects in liquid nitrogen and smashing them. They make sure that safety is an integral part in all the experiments in addition to the “cool” factor of the activities. For schools that are looking to put something like Wahoo Wizards together on their own campus, Cynthia Zahrah, co-director of the Wahoo Wizards program suggests picking a location – either a school, library, daycare or Community Center – and connecting with the teachers or staff.  It only takes a handful of AIChE members to inspire a classroom full of students.

Oregon State's Initiatives

Some Oregon State University students added some additional ideas that have worked well for their outreach group. They suggested getting involved with YMCA and Boys and Girls Club after-school groups as well as Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops. For High School level outreach, they recommended trying to connect the experiments with what the students are learning the class. If the teachers can work the experiments into the curriculum, groups have an easier time getting in.  Additionally,  it may be easier to get into an AP Chemistry or AP Physics class after the exams when things begin winding down. Perhaps Skip Rochefort, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University, summed it up best “If you go into a class and mention the word ‘engineer’ then you have done something.”

Have you had positive experiences with outreach programs like these?

Image: Image Editor, via Flickr
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