Stemming the Gap

EC kids get hands-on science experience

SCIENCE WITH A SMILE. UW-Eau Claire’s Blugold Beginning is bringing extracurricular science to local schools.
SCIENCE WITH A SMILE. UW-Eau Claire’s Blugold Beginning is bringing extracurricular science to local schools.

A partnership among the Eau Claire Public Schools Foundation, Xcel Energy, and UW-Eau Claire’s Blugold Beginnings has produced a high-energy, high-learning program at Roosevelt Elementary in Eau Claire. Designed to support the Eau Claire school district’s mission to prepare all students for post-secondary education, Blugold Beginnings provides extracurricular hands-on learning to students.

“With the skills gap rapidly approaching our manufacturing sector, it’s more important than ever to introduce students to STEM related activities. Today’s manufacturing is no longer ‘dumb, dirty, and dangerous.’ It's full of good paying jobs in a wide range of fields.” – John Walton, owner, Advanced Laser

The two-week program at Roosevelt allows students in grades 3-5 to get their hands dirty, literally, with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). From watching things get set on fire to mixing Oobleck (a substance that acts like a liquid when being poured, but like a solid when a force is acting on it), to building friendships with each other while building robots together, this program is helping to spark the creativity of the next generation of STEM loving outside-the-box thinkers. “It’s visual and tactical and lets kids freely explore something that they may have otherwise been unsure about trying,” explains Sarah French, executive director of the Eau Claire Public Schools Foundation.

“This is in great alignment with our mission of supporting STEM education,” said James Hanke, manager of economic development and community services at Xcel Energy, in a press release. “We are thrilled to support these students in their hands-on learning. And of course, getting kids excited about STEM careers is something that is of great interest for Xcel Energy.”

But it’s not just Xcel that has a vested interest in the promotion of STEM learning in schools: Area manufacturers and technology companies know that the future of their workforce depends on helping kids find their passion in these areas.  “With the skills gap rapidly approaching our manufacturing sector, it’s more important than ever to introduce students to STEM related activities,” says John Walton, owner of Advanced Laser in Chippewa Falls, “Today’s manufacturing is no longer ‘dumb, dirty, and dangerous.’ It’s full of good paying jobs in a wide range of fields.”

The Blugold Beginnings Program works with local schools to provide a comprehensive college connection for students grade 5-12. Their aim is to make post-secondary education more important and attainable for all students, regardless of socioeconomic factors.

For more information or to find a program near you, including STEM summer camps, visit www.uwec.edu/Blugoldbeginnings.

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