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April 25, 2019 LA GRANDE, Ore. – Students in SMILE Clubs from Ontario and Nyssa visited EOU on April 8 to participate in a variety of hands-on engineering challenges and teamwork activities on campus.
SMILE, which stands for Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences, facilitates technology and science activities for elementary and middle school students. The annual Spring Challenge creates a multi-tiered collaboration between SMILE, EOU education students and faculty, Chemistry Club members and faculty, and the GO-STEM Hub.
The 45 SMILE Club students and five teachers worked on chemistry and engineering challenges throughout the day. Donna Rainboth, an assistant professor of education, and Abigail Southgate of GO-STEM coordinated the event.
“SMILE and EOU education students alike benefit from the Spring Challenge,” Rainboth said. “SMILE students participate in interactive, real world STEM explorations and education students see how engaging these kinds of lessons are for students.”
EOU students led the investigations, and Rainboth said it was a powerful day of exploration for everyone involved. Elementary students solved engineering challenges as they learned about buoyancy and potential and kinetic energy. Meanwhile, middle school students delved into genetic modification and its relationship to food sources. In the afternoon, they worked on a lab problem in the chemistry while elementary students and teachers enjoyed a chemistry magic show.
The SMILE program aims to provide a broad range of pathway programs to help underrepresented students succeed in STEM degrees and careers. The SMILE exploration day at EOU provides students with an authentic campus experience.
“Many of these students live in rural, remote areas of Oregon, with families who have little to no college education,” Rainboth said. “They come to EOU to explore the college campus, to feel what it is like to be in college classrooms, to eat lunch in the cafeteria, and to interact with college students. This program provides an authentic way for the students to envision themselves as college students.”
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