'It's about sharing science' | Small turnout for STEM day leads to more personalized event

·3 min read

May 24—Seventeen-year-old Nancy Martinez said she likes learning about "whatever I can."

That's why she said she enjoyed the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Exploration Day put on by graduate students at Kansas State University Saturday.

"Getting to do this is like, really awesome," Martinez said.

The organizer of the event, Priscila Guzman, said she was "a little disappointed" that more children did not show up, but having only four kids attend meant a more individualized experience.

"I loved that their mom decided to join us and do all the activities, because now she's learning too," Guzman said.

Guzman, a graduate student studying microbiology, works to make the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics more accessible to Latino children in Manhattan. Through her own outreach program, she provides science experiment kits for students and offers them a chance to explore the vast array of opportunities within STEM fields.

The schedule for the STEM Exploration Day included a tour of the fish hatchery and rooftop gardens in Ackert Hall, a rocket-building experiment and a tour of the architecture laboratory. Guzman said the kids also dissected a dead starfish.

'We're trying to basically have a well-rounded and more holistic event," Guzman said.

Steve Martinez, 11, said he accidentally cut off all the legs of the starfish while trying to flay the animal open to view its stomach. He said he enjoyed catching and learning about the different species of fish in the hatchery.

"We do science in school, right? But I don't really pay attention to that," Steve Martinez said. "What was interesting to me was when we were learning about space and stuff."

Steve Martinez is going into seventh grade at Eisenhower Middle School this fall. He said the coolest part of learning about space is just how much has not been explored.

Kevin Martinez, 14, said any section of science can be interesting, regardless of what he is studying in school.

"I really just get fascinated by anything and everything, so I think everything is really cool (whether) they want to talk about animals and biology, or space and astronomy," Kevin said. "Anything really interests me, and I'm excited to learn about it."

Kevin Martinez is entering his sophomore year at Manhattan High School this fall. He said there are "a lot of options" for science classes for him to explore.

"I think it's important for kids to learn new stuff every day, kind of like school again but more in activities," Kevin said. "Instead of telling, more showing, more hands-on; I think that's more exciting for students, and it's what gets me excited."

Guzman said she would have loved for more children to attend the STEM Exploration Day and get to interact with scientists, but she was still happy with the turnout. She said there are two perspectives on why it's important to host STEM-related events.

"From the (graduate) student, the biologist's perspective, it's about sharing science," Guzman said. "It's about making it accessible, it's about letting your community know that you are here and to share and enjoy science with them. From the community perspective, it's about them engaging with science, so that they understand the different aspects of science and how it relates to them."

She said the children and families she works with are typically minorities and may not be receiving proper exposure to scientific fields of study.

"It's about creating and building a good relationship between us — the people that are here studying science — and the community," Guzman said.

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