STEM Mentors Reach Nearly 300 Western Kentucky Sixth Graders

EM is reaching out to public middle schools in the City of Paducah and McCracken and Ballard counties to encourage local students to study science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Volunteers from the Fluor Paducah Deactivation Project, in cooperation with EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office(PPPO), give local sixth-grade classes a practical science lesson on groundwater, sampling, and aquifers, and discuss possible future careers with them.  

“STEM is about problem solving,” said Jennifer Woodard, PPPO’s Paducah site lead. “The site offers many career opportunities in science, computers, engineering, accounting, purchasing, and human resources. The lessons, courses, and classes that students take in middle school, especially STEM-related ones, can translate into marketable and sustainable life skills.”

The interactive groundwater model is a table-top design that shows city, industrial, and rural conditions to illustrate how hydrogeologists sample and simulate groundwater conditions. The presenters are actual geologists, laboratory personnel, and business professionals at the site. Some students — wearing personal protective equipment like safety glasses and rubber gloves — use a pipette, beaker, pH strips, and a pH meter to help sample liquids to compare and understand impurities.

Students also view an aquifer model that illustrates the underground layers of water-bearing, permeable rock, gravel, sand, or silt from which groundwater can be extracted. The lesson simulates characteristics of an aquifer and shows students how dye that is introduced into the water is dispersed by groundwater movement.

“The model of the town and letting the students take water samples helped them learn about the pH scale, the water cycle, and the importance of clean water,” said Allyson Calhoun, sixth grade science teacher at Lone Oak Middle School. “The students really enjoyed it and learned practical applications of science.”

EM and its contractors also engage students through other educational outreach programs such as the annual DOE National Science Bowl, for which regional competitions will be held Feb. 5 and 19, 2016 for Western Kentucky middle and high schools, respectively. PPPO and its EM contractors also support the Western Kentucky Regional Science Fair, local school career fairs, and a summer internship program for college students.