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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Hey, kids! Wanna hold a hissing cockroach?

This weekend at URI, hands on science for grade schoolers 

Children in grades kindergarten through 8 and their families will experience the fun and rigors of scientific investigation at the University of Rhode Island’s GEMS-Net Family Science Expo Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at URI’s Ryan Center, 1 Lincoln Almond Plaza, Kingston Campus.

GEMS-Net, which stands for The Guiding Education in Math and Science Network, is a collaboration of the University of Rhode Island’s School of Education, scientists and engineers from many URI departments, and 47 public schools in Rhode Island. 

GEMS-Net was founded in 1995 to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics teaching and learning for kindergarten through grade 8. The program has received more than $3 million in external funding, mostly from the National Science Foundation. 

The Science Expo is free and open to the public and will feature 27 activities based on kindergarten through grade 8 curricula. Children and families will be able to hold and observe hissing cockroaches, engineer their own compost bin and design parachutes that help drop food to firefighters in harsh environments.

“Through a research study funded by the Rhode Island Foundation, we discovered that 77 percent of Rhode Island children surveyed in grades kindergarten through 8 enjoy learning about science in school, yet only 25 percent of the same children would consider pursuing a career in science or engineering,” said Sara Sweetman, URI assistant professor of education and director of the GEMS-Net program. “The same research found that only 34 percent of children relate science from the classroom lessons to life outside of school.”

“Through these activities and more, families and other community members will discover the rigorous learning opportunities that local public schoolchildren engage in through support from GEMS-Net,” Sweetman said.

Local teachers and URI student-teachers will facilitate activities at each booth. In addition, professors and staff from URI’s science and engineering programs will share information, visuals and activities to help children and parents better understand the opportunities for science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers and successful admission to their programs.

Sweetman said she and her team hypothesize that young students may not understand what career opportunities are available to them.

“By having URI departments provide information to students and parents about appropriate pathways, we can connect the pipeline,” she said.

Finally, the program, will feature programs from the Rhode Island Environmental Education Association. A developing relationship between the association and GEMs-Net will build understanding of the connections between in-school and out-of-school learning opportunities.

In addition to the activity booths, Save the Bay will also provide touch tanks, Roger Williams Zoo will bring the Zoomobile and Night Skies will bring an inflatable planetarium. The Rhode Island Audubon Society will conduct an activity on engineering a nest and the Norman Bird Sanctuary will feature a program on Rhode Island landforms.

The GEMS-Net partner school districts are: Burrillville, Chariho, Cumberland, Exeter-West Greenwich, Foster, Jamestown, Narragansett, North Kingstown, Paul Cuffee School, South Kingstown and Westerly.

Partner school districts receive ongoing professional development for all teachers, curricula recommendations that align with the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, and leadership development for teachers and principals.