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SCS, SCC show students, parents career skills

By Shannon Beamon
Staff Writer
Walking down the hallways of Norwood Elementary was a bit like touring an array of science exhibits recently.
Through one doorway, there was a glimpse of kids making circuits with bananas. Through another, battle bots jittering about on toothbrush bristle legs. Through the next, a welding simulator strapped onto someone’s head.
“And the best part is, the kids and their parents get to do it together,” Krista Bowers, of Stanly Community College, said of their new STEM Curriculum Nights.
With the changes in technology, parents need just as much education about opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math as their kids do, she said. In fact, that was identified as a major need in the school system this past year.
At the annual CAFE Program — a community event that gets local educators and local business owners together — both parties agreed kids needed to learn about STEM careers earlier in their education.
“Which means helping parents understand what’s out there, too,” Bowers said.
So in partnership with SCS and N.C. BioNetwork, they are hosting a series of STEM Curriculum Nights for both students and their parents at the local elementary schools.
Norwood is the fourth school they have covered so far. They plan to have one at each elementary school this year.
“It’s pretty significant for us because its the first regular programming we’ve done with the elementary schools,” Bowers said.
While SCC has been partnering with SCS high schools for years on the Career and College Promise program — which allows high school students across the county to take technical, college-prep classes and even get certified in some jobs through SCC for free — there are still many parents that aren’t aware of the program, she said.
“This is one way we can get that information to them sooner,” Bowers said.
So along with science experiments for the kids, SCC had someone to speak to parents about the CCP and the careers it can lead to.
“Some of those positions pay around $50 an hour,” said Devin Baucom, an instructor for SCC’s Advanced Manufacturing and Industrial Training school.
In fact, due to the aging out of the current technical workers like mechanics and various kinds of technicians, there’s a growing demand for skilled workers.
“Trades, plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning, these are areas that have not been supported with new people coming into the industry for several years,” Baucom said. “Because of that it’s wide open.”
While the students were more anxious to try out the science stations than sit and listen about jobs, even they seemed to catch the idea.
Fifth-grader Micah Davis said if he didn’t make it to the Major Leagues, he wanted to work with space engineers.
“You know calculating where they’re going, how much food to put onboard, quantifying that stuff and calculating it up,” Davis said.
Student Tesla Almond, while still determined to be a photographer, said it would be cool to build machines like the battle bot she constructed that night, too.
“It made me look at electronics in a new way,” Almond said.
In turn, parents got to learn alongside their children, said Norwood curriculum coach Amanda Horton.
“(They) did a fantastic job getting our students and families excited about STEM education,” Horton said.
Avis Kinney and granddaughter Chloe, for instance, watched with wide eyes as Baucom blew up marshmallows in a low air-pressure container.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Avis Kinney said as Baucom explained the physics behind it.
It is the same kind of physics that go into heating and air conditioning work, he added.
“That’s the world now. They’ve got to know that,” Avis said.
Billie Conte and son Mason carefully combined contact solution and a special powder to make slime. The two chemicals together made longer polymers that partially solidify to form a Silly-Putty-like substance, N.C. BioNetwork instructor Courtney Behrle explained.
“He loves stuff like this,” Billie said of her son.
Already passing high school level science tests and doing science workbooks for fun, Mason is always hungry for new STEM opportunities.
“This has been a great way to learn about what’s out there,” Billie said.

Contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24, or shannon@stanlynewspress.com.