by Jenny Wells
(Jan. 16, 2015) — The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) hosted an Energy Fair on campus last month for 271 fourth and fifth graders from Russell Cave, Yates and Cassidy Elementary Schools in Lexington. The fair provided the students with opportunities to meet scientists, learn about different forms of energy, participate in hands-on experiments, and even tour UK's campus.
In addition to CAER, represenatives from the UK Chapter of the Society of Mining Engineers, Fayette County Public Schools Energy and Sustainability, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Kentucky Geological Survey, and Bluegrass Energy provided interactive stations for the students.
"The Energy Fair trip was a tremendous success," said Josh Radner, a science teacher at Yates Elementary. "Our students were thrilled to meet UK students and researchers who are using the energy science we study in the classroom to address 21st century problems. The event and our subsequent campus tour made a huge impression on our students, many of whom had never visited a college or university campus before."
Pratham Desai, a fourth grader at Cassidy who attended the fair, peddled a bicycle to activate lightbulbs, which he described as his favorite part. Desai is a member of the Science Club at Cassidy, where researchers from CAER have been visiting once a week to teach the students about solar panels, electricity, biofuels, motors, and electromagnets.
"They teach us about different things, like how to save energy and how electricity is generated," Desai said. "Today's fair taught me that energy can do a lot of work for you, without you having to do it."
Collin Harrison, a fourth grader at Russell Cave, said the fair helped him better understand what he has already been learning in school.
"We're looking at different kinds of energy and how carbon dioxide and different types of energy work, and what you can do with it," said Harrison. "In school we're actually making inventions that use energy. This fair gave me a lot of ideas for things I can do."
Harrison's favorite part of the day was watching UK chemistry professor John Selegue perform chemical experiments with balloons.
"He had a stick with fire on the top, and there was a balloon that he filled with different chemicals. So when he put the fire in the balloon, there were different reactions."
"I can easily imagine that this will be remembered by one or more of our students as the moment when they realized that they wanted to grow up to be a scientist," said Radner.
The fair also gave UK students an opportunity to work with the elementary students. Brett Criswell, an assistant professor in STEM Education in the UK College of Education, had all 24 students from his Elementary Science Methods course participate in the fair.
"This is part of our efforts to increase our students' exposure to informal science learning while also supporting STEM outreach work that is occruing across the university and Lexington community," Criswell said.
Christine Stenzel, a senior elementary education major, is one of the students who helped at the fair.
"I saw so many things I cannot wait to apply to my classroom one day," Stenzel said. "There were many instances when a student experienced a 'light bulb' moment in their mind - when a concept actually clicked with them. These moments are so special to me because I was able to really witness learning in so many of these students and see how much they enjoyed it."