My brother lives on a road that winds its way up the side of a mountain. I can always tell when I’m approaching the turnoff road that leads me to his house when I see the majestic, imposing blades of the wind turbines that rise from their place atop the mountain.
“How do they work, Mommy?” is a question my five-year-old daughter often asks me when she sees them. Unfortunately, that’s a level of scientific detail that even this avid storyteller cannot try to bluster her way through.
What my daughter and countless other girls (and boys too!) like her needs is the opportunity to engage in hands-on STEM learning opportunities to answer her own questions about renewal wind power. Like the upcoming National 4-H Council 2011 National Science Experiment,Wired for Wind.
On October 5th, kids across the country will become scientists for the day during 4-H National Youth Science Day. In this year's experiment, Wired for Wind, kids will enhance their engineering skills by designing, building and testing two different wind turbine models.
Those of us who work in STEM education, advocacy and/or the workforce talk so much about the need to make STEM learning more relevant to children’s lives so that they can better relate to the subject matter. This year’s National Science Experiment does that by having participating youth relate their scientific experiences back to their own lives by determining the best location for a wind farm in their state or community.
Developed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extensionprogram, this three-tiered experiment will help 4-H young people to enhance their science, engineering, technology and applied math skills by allowing them to:
- Design, build and test two different wind turbine models
- Experiment with variables by examining three different blade pitch angles to determine the effect of pitch on rotor speed
- Relate their scientific experiences back to their own lives by determining how their communities can harness the power of wind and create a more sustainable and clean energy system
- Determine the best location for a wind farm in their state or local area by calculating wind power and studying wind data and maps
Did you know that 4-H has been at the forefront of teaching kids about science, engineering and technology? 4-H National Youth Science Day, according to information on the organization’s website, is an important annual part of 4-H’s bold goal of attracting one million new youth to science, engineering and technology programs by the year 2013.
Currently, more than five million young people across the nation participate in 4-H science, engineering and technology programming in topics as varied as robotics, rocketry, wind power, GPS mapping, agricultural science, water quality and biofuels.
October 5th could spark untapped excitement and engagement for STEM learning in the minds of countless kids around the country. Who knows what the fifth grader today who participates in National Youth Science Day will grow up to invent, solve, reengineer in another 20 years?
I don’t ever remember participating in cool STEM learning opportunities like this when I was a kid. I’m glad I get to live vicariously through my five-year-old.
For more information about 4-H National Youth Science Day, visit www.4-H.org/NYSD.