At STEAM Central, environmental lessons for a new generation

At STEAM Central, environmental lessons for a new generation

The Westerly Sun


WESTERLY — “If we all work together, this world wouldn’t be polluted.” “Don’t litter.” “Do your part.”

These were some of the phrases Lauren Moorehead, a fourth grader at Ashaway Elementary School, had added to her drawing of the Earth, which was on digital display via a projector at STEAM Central, an educational, environmentally themed fair held at the Westerly Education Center on Saturday. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering art and math.

Her artwork was part of a collection of pieces from students at the Ashaway and Charlestown schools, and Chariho Middle School,on display at the event.

Moorehead, 9, of Hope Valley, said working on the project made her think about “how much trash is in the world.”

“I wrote about things that we could do to make the world a better place,” she said. Some of the other phrases in her artwork were, “Pick up trash,” “Recycle,” and “It’s not only my world, it’s yours too.”

The fair was the kickoff for a series of STEAM-related events planned by Carol Giuriceo, director of the Rhode Island STEAM Center at Rhode Island College. About 120 visitors took part in the fair.

“The idea was to have a series of half-day events, this is the pilot one, and each event will be focused on a different theme,” Giuriceo said. “At the first one we thought we’d focus on the environment because it’s something many Rhode Islanders feel strongly about.”

Set up with activity, information and demo stations, the fair was named STEAM Central because the Westerly Education Center is located across from the Westerly train station.

The activity stations included touch tanks with marine animals, a hands-on watershed and pollution model, and a game of matching marine debris with its decomposition rates. Information stations had representatives of environmental agencies and organizations from around Rhode Island.

“We wanted it to appeal to different ages because families come and they have young ones, ‘tweens and teenagers, so we wanted to appeal to everyone,” Giuricio said. “The activities appeal to the younger ones and the information is geared toward the older ones.”

The career station featured exploration tools for environmental careers. “Our goal is to excite and engage people and to show them that this is STEAM, it’s not just something in schools, it’s not just something in a textbook, it’s all around you,” Giuriceo said. “We also want to promote the RI STEAM Center and the Westerly Education Center as resources that are available for people.”

At the community station, kids and adults had the opportunity to learn about the impact of sea level rise and hurricanes on their neighborhoods in Rhode Island by using an interactive web-based mapping program called STORMTOOLS. The program was created by researchers at the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center and Rhode Island Sea Grant at the university’s School of Oceanography.

“Researchers have collected data on the threats of sea level rise and flooding from hurricanes and you can see if your property is threatened by sea level rise or hurricanes,” said Sue Kennedy, a communications specialist with the university. “We have found this is a really good way to get families interested.”

Kennedy said the technology makes current scientific data on sea level rise and the impact of coastal storms easily available to the public.

The program also works as an intergenerational teaching tool about sea level rise, she said.

“Kids are checking their own address and they’re really good at it, and most importantly they’re showing their parents,” she said. When the children check their home and their school, she said, “they see how impacted they are and that’s a great place to start.”

Kennedy said children today are the first generation to grow up hearing the term sea level rise.

“They understand that sea level rise may not be tomorrow but it’s an actual threat if you live in Rhode Island on the coast,” she said. “These kids are going to be the ones that do something different from what our parents and grandparents did; they’re going to be the leaders.”

For more information on STORMTOOLS, go to www.beachsamp.org.

chewitt@thewesterlysun.com


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