By Airman Thomas S. Keisler IV, 31 FW / PA
/ Published January 30, 2020
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Dante N. Summers, 606th Air Control Squadron power production technician, teaches students how to make a kazoo during a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Junk Box Challenge at Aviano Elementary School, Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 28, 2020. Summers volunteered for the STEM event because he was a middle school teacher’s aide before he joined the military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Thomas S. Keisler IV)
The Aviano Elementary School held a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math challenge on Jan. 8, 2020. The STEM Junk Box is a monthly challenge that the school holds for their students to practice out-of-the-box thinking and creative problem solving.
STEM Junk Box challenges started as a partnership between Aviano’s Department of Defense Education Activity team and the School Liaison Office. They now challenge different grades throughout the school every month and have plans to lead up to a large Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math competition sometime in May.
This month’s STEM Junk Box challenge was for the school’s first graders. Their task was to construct a Kazoo and determine whether or not the sound changed based on what material was used to make it.
The materials that the children used to test the Kazoos were wax paper, colored cellophane, plastic bags, coffee filters, aluminum foil and paper towels. The challenge ended with the children decorating their kazoos to take home and picking the material they liked the best.
“The purpose of the event is to engage children in the world of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math by having challenges that show real-life applications of STEM,” said Rachael Rutland, the school liaison for the 31st Force Support Squadron.
Rutland, who was the coordinator for this event, had two goals while putting this competition together: promoting STEM education within the school and providing an opportunity for our Airmen to share their wisdom by teaching Aviano’s students STEM lessons.
“Active duty members volunteer their time to teach the lesson and bring their unique skills and STEM knowledge into the classroom,” said Rutland. “This creates a great partnership between our Airmen and youth and also teaches our children how STEM benefits our society, world and Air Force.”
Over 30 Airmen volunteered to teach at the STEM event. Volunteers are given specific lessons to teach the students based on the grade that’s competing in that month.
“I volunteered because I was a middle school teacher’s aide before joining the military,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Dante N. Summers, a power production technician with the 606th Air Control Squadron. “I still enjoy interacting with children and facilitating the expansion of their imagination, intelligence and growth.”
Some Airmen who taught during the competition volunteered because of their love of teaching and past experience before joining the military, while others volunteered because of their love of interacting with children and wanting to make a difference in their lives.
The Aviano Elementary School’s goal is to let every age group compete in the challenge twice throughout the school year. This event has helped teach many students the basics of STEM thinking. The school is always looking for more volunteers for the monthly challenges they host and are grateful for the volunteers they get. Those wanting to volunteer can contact the School Liaison Office.