Fifth-graders participate in STEM-based instruction in STARBASE science program

Beth Kornegay/Special to the Times
An instructor from Kansas STARBASE demonstrates an experiment to fifth-graders at Linwood Elementary School.

Each year, Linwood Elementary School fifth-graders are immersed in a science program known as STARBASE. Until this year, the program included a field trip for a hands-on experience. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the program came to the school this year.

Sponsored by the Department of Defense and offered free of charge to specific schools in targeted areas, the program consists of 25 hours of instruction by military personnel and is focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) exercises and activities. In the past, students traveled to a location such as a nearby National Guard armory where they visited the repair shop and observed. The educational content and location varied from year to year, but this year STARBASE instructors visited Linwood Elementary School for an entire week of lessons. 

More:Masks optional for summer school

Linwood fifth-grade teacher Lynn Sweeney said the STARBASE program is always a highlight of the students’ year because they enjoy the activities and learn so much from the experience. She also said that fourth-graders hear about the program and always look forward to their chance to participate in the next year.

“STARBASE is an outstanding and unique opportunity for the fifth-graders at LES to get hands-on experience with the math and science curriculum. I have always marveled at how excited they are to participate in the activities at STARBASE and the incredible amount that they learn during their experiences there,” Sweeney said.

The overall goal of the program is to encourage students to become interested in STEM-based jobs as well as looking into the opportunity of a military career.

The STARBASE program makes learning engaging and fun with equipment and lessons that would be hard for a classroom teacher to replicate, including activities working with programmable robots in which students control the direction, speed and distance of the robot to ensure they follow the courses set out for them.

More:School board members to offer insight about positions

Another popular activity involved students developing a safe suit and harness for Lt. Eggbert, who happens to be a raw egg. Lt. Eggbert’s mission is to safely land on the “moon” or “Mars.” Knowing that the landing will be rough, students are given a budget and materials to purchase to develop a safety suit and harness so Lt. Eggbert is not injured during the landing. Those suits are then tested to see if the design is successful.

“This program has the most dedicated and fabulous instructors around,” said Sweeney. “They are the best at what they do and I feel that my students are so very blessed to be able to participate in this program year after year.”