WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

STEM garden a teaching tool

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Fike High School students spent a morning at the STEM garden at Wilson Botanical Gardens earlier this month learning about hydroponics, solar and wind power, meteorology and native plant identification.

Angelique Showman, a physical science and earth and environmental science teacher at Fike, led 15 ninth-graders through the series of stations.

“What we are looking at today is some of the things we have actually talked about in the classroom, more out in the field so they can see them and as we are getting ready to move into the next unit,” Showman said. “Once we get past lithosphere, we will start looking at biosphere; some of the things that we are looking at today are going to tie into that as well.”

Showman said the STEM garden was an exciting find for her as a teacher.

“When I was in college, one of my favorite field trips was a biology one, and we went to a botanical garden and we had kind of a scavenger hunt,” Showman said. “When I kind of stumbled across this even existing, I came out to see her to see if they could simulate that same experience I had in college for these students here.

“The majority of the students that I teach here at Fike High School really don’t get this kind of exposure, and I just thought is was a great way for them to see that science happens out there. It’s not just in the classroom,” she said. “What we are trying to teach them really is relevant to future careers.”

Showman enlisted the help of Cyndi Lauderdale, a horticulture agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County and executive director of the Wilson Botanical Gardens.

Lauderdale said the STEM garden was dedicated in May 2017.

“Mrs. Showman gave us the objectives of each station as it relates to the curriculum for ninth-grade science, so we then planned around what she wants them to learn,” Lauderdale said. “There is a little bit of a presentation, a hands-on activity at each station.”

The students spent more than 30 minutes at each station.

“In the solar power, they are charging their phones at our solar-powered charging station to see that solar power really can work. You see all around us solar farms going up, so let’s learn a little more about that energy source,” Lauderdale said. “They are also trying to cook some marshmallows in a solar oven, but today is a little bit cloudy so we don’t know how well they are going to cook.”

In their classroom, the students had already made weather instruments as a project, so they compared that to the weather station in the botanical gardens.

“The weather station is available to anybody,” Lauderdale said. “If you go to the Weather Underground app, they will see how the things that they learned in class actually relate to a weather station and how to predict if we might be having a storm coming today with the clouds and the pressures.”

At the hydroponics station, the gardeners are growing strawberries.

The students’ hands-on activity was to plant a take-home hydroponics kit made from a simple Styrofoam dinner tray.

At the wind power station, students made their own windmills and used a conventional house fan to propel them.

“Sometimes the simplest experiments are the best,” Showman said.

“My hope is that some of the things we have talked about careers that they are going to actually see that these things exist. Even though they might not want to be a scientist, they can still be involved in these fast-growing careers in other applications.”

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