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Students in the Explore! program program their Lego robots built during the after-school program.
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Students build their hover cars in the 'Engineering Adventures' section.
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'Gamer's Paradise' participants learn how to code video games.
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Students in the life science section organize animal tracks they have gathered.
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Woodworking students take a break from building and pan for gold.

Plunkett Students Learn STEM Skills In Explore! Program

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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General Dynamics engineer Meghan Nef prepares a hover car track made with magnets, part of Plunkett's after-school STEM program.
ADAMS, Mass. — More than 60 C.T. Plunkett School students in Grades 3-5 were scattered throughout the school last week participating in STEM enrichment sessions.
 
Teacher Laura Scholz said the children have been staying after school over the past month to partake in seven different hands-on activities using science, technology, engineering and math through the Explore program.
 
"I think that if gives them another opportunity and a different way to learn," she said of the Explore! program, which also ran last year. "It's hands-on and it helps them apply what they learn during the day. They are getting to do things after school that they probably have never been exposed to in class."
 
The sections take on different themes such as "World of Robots," "Motions and Potions," "Treasure Hunters" and "Engineering Adventures."
 
Scholz said the sections are run by Plunkett and Hoosac Valley High School teachers as well as engineers from General Dynamics.
 
"We have a total of 14 engineers from General Dynamics," she said. "It is good for the kids to make those connections at a young age with people working in the community that can expose them to a career option they may be interested in."
 
Meghan Nef of General Dynamics lead "Adventures in Engineering" and showed students how to make hover cars out of magnets.
 
"We have a track here and we are going to throw some magnets on it and on the bottom of the cars," she explained, adding, "It is important to give back to the community. I'm not originally from here but the community I grew up in gave so much to me growing up and things like this helped out so it’s my turn now."
 
Plunkett technology coordinator Geoff Condel lead "Gamers Paradise" during which students played games that teach them basic coding.
 
"It kind of relates to games they all play and they do more controlling and manipulating instead of just playing," he said. "But that’s how these games work and they start to get that."
 
In "World of Robots," students built Lego robots and programmed them.
 
Plunkett teacher Mara Woolley hosted the "It's Your World" section in which students learned life sciences. Last week, they organized photos of animal footprints and other items they gathered when tracking animals. 
 
"We have been identifying tracks and we have been learning about the different types of tracks," fifth-grader Madalyn LaMour said. "We went out for walks to identify animals." 
 
The woodworking section lead by instructor Aaron Namislo has built birdhouses, tool boxes and napkin holders but last week, they were panning for gold.
 
When the students find something in the dirt they must identify if it is gold. He said if they find some, they get to take it home with them.
 
Namislo said students will get their own gold pan so they can be treasure hunters whenever the mood strikes. 
 
"Motions and Potions" students made bottle rockets fueled by vinegar and baking soda and the "Treasure Hunter" group was offsite using navigation skills to find treasure.  
 
Scholz said cost is $35 to participate but scholarships are available for those who may not be able to pay. No student is turned away, she said.

Tags: after school programs,   Plunkett,   STEM,   

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