Claire Xiong, assistant professor in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering is reaching out to local youth. Dr. Xiong recently received a prestigious NSF CAREER award aimed at boosting student interest in STEM fields and building energy literacy in youth at non-school settings. In support of these goals, Dr. Xiong recently collaborated with Boise State University’s Service Learning Program to introduce STEM to the Girl Scouts of Silver Sage.
Service Learning Promotes Community Relations
The Boise State Service Learning Program connects classrooms with the community through capacity-building partnerships. These connections enhance student learning, address critical community issues, and encourage students to be active citizens in their local, national, and global communities.
Dr. Xiong’s service learning project involved Boise State students enrolled in her materials for energy sustainability course. Students developed a deeper understanding of energy sustainability by creating interactive group projects and presenting them to the Girl Scouts. By the end of the course, students realized their role in the community and learned that they can have a positive impact on our youth.
Hands-on Projects Promote STEM
The Girl Scouts participated in hands-on projects to discover the important role of materials in solving the most critical problem of our time: sustainable energy. Participants discovered how advanced functional materials play a role in the creation of windmills, solar cells, and hydropower. They also learned about the process of identifying materials that might have less environmental impact. A key take-away was their discovering how to retrieve the information necessary to propose their own solutions to material-related problems. Stimulating this level of confidence promotes curiosity in STEM and is an important factor in educating tomorrow’s workforce.
Does hands-on experimentation have an impact? The Girl Scouts, troop leaders, and parents seem to think so. With the initial goal of earning a Girl Scout badge, the Scouts created things like solar cells and slime during this service learning project. When asked about the one thing she learned about solar power, a Scout said, “You can make electricity out of blackberry juice!” Another participant said, “My favorite activity was about wind power because we got to create a windmill.” In the end, earning a badge was one important outcome; however, it was clear that the Girl Scouts also learned that science is fun. “Rarely have I seen my daughter so engaged,” said one parent. Troop leaders, parents, and Scouts are already looking forward to collaborating with Boise State on future hands-on STEM activities.