Children at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Child Development Center are learning early about science and math-related careers. The preschoolers recently participated in “That STEM Attitude.” The multi-media presentation resulted from a partnership between the center and Davida Walls, a UAPB STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy intern.
The freshman biology major said she worked with the center to help “introduce and get the children intrigued about STEM. The teachers actually did the work and got them familiar The youngsters eagerly showed what they had learned during the presentation in the Adair-Greenhouse Auditorium. As Tevin Campbell’s song “Tomorrow” filled the room, children dressed as pint-sized doctors, astronauts, scientists and more paraded in carrying signs.
Later, while a video featuring the “Rap-along Science Song” played , the children did hands-on science experiments. They also performed “Let’s Count It,” a rap song that highlighted the importance of math in everyday life.
“Our goal today is to start earlier so these children will have a head start in the sciences,” said Dr. Mary Benjamin, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. “We want to get their attention STEM professionals, who often make top salaries, are in great demand in the United States but there aren’t enough workers to fill that demand. It’s important to start building a STEM workforce for the U.S., Dr. Benjamin said. “It is better to acquaint them with careers that are science-related at an early age and in a non-threatening manner,” she said.
STEM careers offer children bright futures, said Debra Jefferson, interim director of the UAPB Child Development Center. “The goal is to get families and teachers to think about encouraging children in math and science areas,” she said. “The need is there and the opportunity is great. They may not end up in STEM careers but we want to encourage that.”
Krandon Henry of the UAPB TRIO Student Support Services offered tips on how to spark children’s interest in science and math by allowing them to explore their surroundings or visit attractions such as the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Denise Henry, an early childhood teacher at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, talked about how parents and teachers can relate STEM fields.
“It can be as easy as counting M & M’s, talking about dirt or gardens or bugs,” she said. “They’re learning as they are having fun.”
Bobbie Handcock is an Extension Specialist - Communications at the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.