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Student engaging with STEM in the Park

STEM in the Parks

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dr. Nicole Colston, assistant research faculty in the School of Teaching, Learning and Educational Sciences, led two successful community engagement projects promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning in Stillwater’s local parks and recreation areas this summer.

Professor helping students with a construction
Professor sharing science with participant

In May, Colston partnered with Dr. Bobbi Kay Lewis, assistant dean of outreach and communications for the Oklahoma State University College of Arts and Sciences, to host Push Forward, a one-day skate contest for Stillwater youth aged 13-25 at Strickland Park. The event showcased informal science learning and promoted the community skate park.

Student on a skateboard

“The goal is for people to think about spaces, outside of the classroom, where people can learn about science throughout their entire lifespan,” Colston said.

The contest highlighted the physics of skating and allowed skaters to connect what they love to do with science concepts. Activities included using a hand-held accelerometer (PocketLab) to measure angular velocity, or rotation, of the skateboard along three dimensions.

Funded by a community engagement grant through the College of Arts and Sciences, the event was a collaboration between OSU, the Stillwater Skate Park Association and the City of Stillwater.

“We worked with community partners to shine a positive light on the skate park as a place for STEM learning,” Colston said.

In addition to Push Forward, Colston directed the Lake McMurtry Outdoor Adventure Camp for four weeks in June.

Professor showing science to more participants

A new theme was introduced each week: nature observing, park science, outdoor skills and wild arts. Campers aged 7-12 took advantage of all that Lake McMurtry has to offer, including hiking, swimming and fishing. Favorite activities among campers included making bug motels, taking wildlife photos, building ground forts and working with natural clay.

“The camp promoted the lake and its awesome facilities, but it also provided a quality educational experience,” Colston said. “Campers made STEM connections, while having fun outdoors.”

Colston and her partners look forward to expanding their community engagement efforts as a way to further promote and engage STEM learning.

“The Center for Research on STEM Teaching and Learning (CRSTL) is fortunate to have Nicole as part of the team,” said Juliana Utley, director of CRSTL. “We are proud of her outstanding research and outreach efforts.”

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