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Mason Elementary students see STEM experiments first hand

Mason Elementary students, from left, Kevin Mo, Logan Ogilvie and Kallie Loewy work on science, technology, engineering and math projects in the school’s cafeteria on Friday. The school, along with teachers and students from Peachtree Ridge High School, celebrated STEM Day in Georgia. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

Mason Elementary students, from left, Kevin Mo, Logan Ogilvie and Kallie Loewy work on science, technology, engineering and math projects in the school’s cafeteria on Friday. The school, along with teachers and students from Peachtree Ridge High School, celebrated STEM Day in Georgia. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

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Mason Elementary students on Friday look over and test a project that shows how to turn a coil wire into a magnet. The students were celebrating STEM Day, which highlights projects and careers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

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Mason Elementary students, from left Gabrielle Watts, Aiden Yi and Robin Bulat look over and build a pulley system to pull gummie bears up from the floor to the table on Friday in the school’s cafeteria. The students were celebrating STEM Day, which highlights projects and careers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)

DULUTH — Students pulled gummie bears up using popsicle sticks as part of a pulley system, balanced several nails on the head of one nail and combined spaghetti noodles with marshmallows.

All of the hands-on projects were on full display on Friday as Mason Elementary students and teachers, along with their cluster counterparts at Peachtree Ridge High, celebrated statewide STEM Day. The celebration was designed to highlight the projects and careers related to science, technology, engineering and math.

The award-winning Peachtree Ridge robotics team also took part in the event as did engineers and architects from Burns & McDonnell, an Atlanta engineering firm, who showed real-life simulations of architectural software, bridge building and how to turn a coil wire into a magnet. It was a first of its kind event at Mason as teachers from the school and Peachtree Ridge added the arts to the acronym, to make it “STEAM,” and promoted it using catch phrases like “go full steam ahead” and “have a steamsational day.”

Gayle Adkinson, community school director at Peachtree Ridge, said the joint initiative is designed to show students that there’s a commitment to STEM throughout their career in the cluster. Seven teachers and 37 students from Peachtree Ridge took part in STEM Day at Mason.

“They’re all our kids, we’re all Lions regardless of what school we go to, so this is one way to pull us together,” she said.

Adkinson added that 15 of the fastest-growing careers require a background of math and science and more than half of the work scientists do is made up of reading and writing.

Principal David Jones said the goal is to prepare students for those careers that have jobs to fill, and interact the way adults do in the working world.

“Our kids love it because there’s a lot of building going on,” Jones said. “They’re putting their hands on materials, they’re creating, they’re engaged, they’re using STEM activities that have constraints to follow. We give them a problem to solve, we let them collaborate. Teams in the work-world today collaborate; nobody works in a silo. They love the interaction between the materials and the group, and what they’re trying to do to solve the problem.”

One of those problems to solve came from the Peachtree Ridge robotics team, which created a scenario for the elementary students centered around building a habitat for a new species of bear. Adkinson said the high schoolers explained that they generate the same thought process when they build a robot that helped them win a regional competition earlier this year.

The younger kids also have a unique perspective on STEM-related activities.

“They’re a lot more open,” Adkinson said. “They’re willing to take risks. There is no intimidation.”

Yet the give and take with high schoolers taking the lead is huge, Jones said, because they can demonstrate that they’ve mastered a project or concept.