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Bostian Elementary School hosts Summer STEAM

CHINA GROVE — Donning vibrant green safety goggles in the STEAM lab of Bostian Elementary School on Tuesday, rising fifth-grader Katie Stirewalt attaches a balloon filled with baking soda to a bottle of vinegar. A shake of the balloon sends the powder falling, and magic ensues. The concoction bubbles over, and the balloon inflates.

“That’s so cool,” Katie says, laughing excitedly as the toy continues to expand.

She turns toward her grandmother, Sheila Barringer, and adds, “I can’t wait to try this at home.”

It would be those shrill notes of laughter that coaxed rising-kindergartner Dorie Clark from behind her mother’s legs, a refuge she’d found just moments before the small experiment began. Her fears subsided, she padded back over to join in the fun.

This, said Bostian Principal Lisa Sigmon, is exactly the reasoning behind the summer session of experimentation. Called Summer STEAM for science, technology, engineering, art and math, the program was meant to maintain student engagement in learning throughout the year, she said.

“It’s all about keeping them interested in school throughout the summer,” Sigmon said. “We’re working to keep that love of learning and develop a new crop of lifelong learners. We love seeing that spark of enthusiasm in them.”

Watching as Dorie took her own turn inflating a balloon, her mother, Hannah Clark, said the summer offering is “right up Dorie’s alley.”

“She’s thoroughly enjoying everything out here today,” said Clark. “She’s already shown an interest in becoming a scientist one day herself.”

And Summer STEAM offered more than just the one chance for hands-on learning in science: There were magnetic stations, microscopes, lessons in static electricity and another test of chemical reactions called “elephant toothpaste” — a mix of potassium iodide and hydrogen peroxide.

The program was overseen by media specialist Jennifer Roberson and her rising 10th-grade daughter, Carys.

For Roberson, the summer session offered students a break from the summer vacation lull.

“It’s a chance for them to come in with their families and interact with technology and science tools,” she said, adding that each session usually focused on one specific STEAM element.

During most summers, the school would host four Summer STEAM events. This year, because of a shortened break, it is hosting two — with a second scheduled July 16.

And Barringer, who had brought her granddaughter for all six years during her time at Bostian, said Katie and other learners are always excited about attending the programs.

“These kids are so very fortunate,” she said. “This school really goes the extra mile for them. … The teachers take such pride in what they do here. They’re blessed to get to experience it.”

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