If the fifth-graders visiting Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School on Wednesday thought science was all about boring textbooks and scary test questions, they certainly don’t anymore.
During their morning visit to the high school, nearly two-dozen students from Polk City Elementary built robots out of LEGO blocks, experimented with cow eyes and pieced together the human body using mannequins.
And judging by the giggles, gasps, oohs and ahhs, the kids found it all to be very exciting.
Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate Professor Suzanne Ramjattan Halverson hosted the children, with help from students in her Honors Anatomy & Physiology and STEM Research courses.
Halverson and her students led the kids through a STEM-based game of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?” and exercises in building robots, using the lenses of cow eyes to magnify text, and learning about the human anatomy.
“We want to touch on all the various aspects of STEM, but in a hands-on way that will keep the kids engaged and hopefully even motivate and inspire them to continue with STEM education and possibly even careers,” Halverson said.
Among the high school students on hand for the morning was Ashley Cheshire, 18, a senior at the school who will head to Southeastern University later this year to study public relations.
She said attending Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate — and having Halverson for a teacher — forever changed her way of thinking about science. She hoped she could do a bit of the same for the Polk City kids.
“When I came here, it really opened my eyes to the sciences,” she said. “Even if you don’t plan on a career in science, it is still so important in everyday life.”
The teachers who accompanied the children to Polk State said they hope to develop a STEM program at their school, and Monday’s visit is a first step in that direction. They also said they’re thankful the children had the chance to learn from high-school students — who have the ability to make an impression that teachers and other adults can’t always achieve.
“The kids are very impressionable at this age, and they think high-schoolers are just the tops,” said fifth-grade teacher Brett Wiersema.
Assistant Principal Sheila Scott said she was certain the kids would take home a much better understanding of STEM — but so much more, too.
“This is going to give them insight into their future, and show them that science and technology and math are interesting. They’re learning about problem-solving, and that’s something they need for life.”
Polk State College operates two public, charter high schools, Polk State Lakeland Collegiate and Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate in Winter Haven. The schools serve juniors and seniors, allowing them to fulfill requirements for their high school diplomas while also earning college credit — all at no cost. In many cases, students graduate with both their diplomas and associate’s degrees. A third high school, Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate, will open later this year to serve students facing the most difficult circumstances, allowing them to earn a diploma and college credit.