Texarkana 4th graders experience STEM and college

July 14, 2014

SAU eSTEM Academy

Science Specialist Susan Johnson of the SAU STEM Center helps TASD students during the eSTEM Summer Enrichment Academy.

Some of Texarkana’s brightest and boldest fourth-grade students from TASD recently spent three days at the eSTEM Summer Enrichment Academy at Southern Arkansas University.

A total of 19 students from College Hill Elementary and Union Elementary in Texarkana, Ark., arrived at SAU on July 8, 2014, for the three-day project-based learning experience. Students were chosen by faculty and administration at their school based on who they thought would benefit the most from the attending the eSTEM academy.

From the response received by Dr. Roger Guevara, director of the SAU Educational Renewal Zone, it seems many of the students have benefited greatly. “Thank you so much for making this happen,” one student said to Guevara, and another said, “This is the best day of my life!”

Funding for the eSTEM Summer Enrichment Academy was made possible through a $14,000 grant written by Guevara.

SAU eSTEM Academy

SAU senior Arlesia Taylor works with TASD students in the SAU Stem Center during the eSTEM Summer Enrichment Academy.

“It’s not the size of the grant, but it’s the impact it has. And this project has left a lasting impression on these kids,” said Guevara.

A partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority and local churches in the Texarkana area allowed students to enjoy this learning opportunity without any financial obligations.

At the academy, the students learned and developed 21st century skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as well as language arts and writing skills. They also stayed in SAU’s residence halls, enjoyed campus activities, and worked with SAU teacher candidates and peer counselors.

Having the elementary students on campus worked toward another goal of the eSTEM academy. It allowed the young students to experience what it’s like to attend college, in turn encouraging them to begin to think about furthering their education after high school.

“They need these unique opportunities to help increase their learning and social experiences,” said Beverly Webb, a guidance counselor at Union Elementary. The majority of the students involved in the eSTEM program will be first generation college student, according to Webb.

Two of the instructors at the academy are Science Specialist Susan Johnson of the SAU STEM Center for K-12 Education, and Denise Merritt, STEM Center math specialist.

“This type of program is the highlight of my summer because we get to work with the students.  It’s all about the children,” said Johnson.

SAU eSTEM Academy

Kymberly Landers, SAU Early Childhood Education senior, left, works with a Texarkana Arkansas School District student in engineering a carefully crafted race car using common materials and supplies.

Throughout the year, Johnson and Merritt travel across Southwest Arkansas to help teachers with new common core lessons and activities involving science and math.

Dr. Sara Day of SAU’s English Department and Denelle Metcalf, a 4th grade teacher at Magnolia School District, rounded out the instructional staff.

The Educational Renewal Zone (ERZ) at SAU is a PreK-16 initiative founded by the State of Arkansas to help improve public school performance and student academic achievement. This is a collaborative effort between renewal zone partners, including the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of ERZ, institutions of higher education (IHEs), regional education service cooperatives (ESCs), other technical assistance provider entities, schools, and participating communities.

For more information on how you can enrich the lives of Arkansas children or help sponsor life-changing initiatives, please contact Dr. Guevara at rcguevara@saumag.edu.

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