A check of the calendar showed it was a Saturday, but for nearly one hundred Citizen Schools’ Houston students,school was in session – and they couldn’t have been more excited. Because on this day, the tables were turned and they were the ones teaching! That was the experience for 90 Jackson and Edison Middle School Students participating in the Fifth Annual Energy Day Festival held earlier this month.
Hosted by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) and the Consumer Energy Education Foundation (CEEF), the annual Festival offered a day of fun and games for thousands of students and their families, while at the same time exposing them to many of the careers available in the energy industry.
More than 70 exhibits and demonstrations were designed to spark students’ interest in STEM-related studies which is what Citizen Schools is focused on every day in Houston middle schools. Through hands-on, project-based apprenticeships taught by volunteers from local businesses, students connect lessons being taught during the traditional school day with their real-world applications beyond the classroom – and that’s exactly what our students did at the Energy Day Festival.
Working with the Children’s Museum Science Workshop, students held a “Blast Off” challenge, using straw rockets created by attaching straws to plastic pipettes. Attendees could take the challenge by simply aiming their rocket toward the target. But it was our students, teachers for the day, who showed participants how to adjust their angle of trajectory, cut down on surface area and improve their accuracy.
In another demonstration, Children’s Museum Science Workshop students channeled their creative side to showcase aspects of the oil industry. Using just a fish tank and foam board, they built a model of both offshore and on-shore oil rigs. To simulate oil drilling, they schooled participants on extracting the liquid gold from a sand filled cup, using a straw!
Experts predict that there will be nearly two million unfilled STEM–related jobs by the year 2025. Students who participate in Citizen Schools show measurable improvement in their learning; alumni of Citizen Schools enroll in college 22 percent more often than other low-income students. What’s more, surveys of eighth graders nationally show only one-third express an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as a college major or career, but 80 percent of students who take Citizen Schools’ apprenticeships taught by STEM professionals showed interest in the STEM fields.
“Every year, we are excited by the opportunity to partner our middle schoolers with professionals from our community,” said Greg Meyers, executive director of Citizen Schools Houston. “Participating in the Energy Day Festival allows our students to take what they’re learning and share their knowledge with the tens of thousands of attendees. It’s an invaluable experience.”