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Extension Education

Cyndi Lauderdale
Ag. Agent, Horticulture
North Carolina Cooperative Extension


Motivating Students by using STEM in the Garden

Lauderdale, Cyndi, Agricultural Extension Agent, NC State Extension, Wilson, NC 27893 

Wilson County has an unemployment rate of 5%, 11% higher than the national average. The high school graduation rate is 78.5% but only 17.9% attain a four-year degree. Employers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields have difficulty in hiring qualified employees.  The goal of STEM in the Garden is to educate middle/high school students in STEM fields by using horticulture, agriculture, and environmental stewardship principles. This program provides youth with hands-on exposure to STEM principles in an outdoor setting. The activities were developed to support and extend the state curriculum. Activities included: solar ovens implementing critical thinking skills, solar energy limitations and/or a negative impact on biodiversity; weather station readings of relative humidity, precipitation, and dew point to indicate water vapor factors; weather patterns and the effect on global climate change; wind power principles on increasing turbine efficiency, how wind flow patterns work, and how aerodynamic force converts to electricity; and hydroponic growing systems with discussion on media, sustainability, and as a possible solution to climate change. Outcomes were measured by conducting subject matter pre and post-tests and conducting follow-up surveys to judge program value. Outcomes demonstrated that 75% of students showed a better understanding of alternative energies, renewable resources, how wind and solar energy are used, and what an anemometer is used to measure. 72% of students showed a better understanding of how plants can be grown without soil, how hydroponics differs from traditional growing systems, how nutrients are supplied in hydroponic systems, and what can be grown in a hydroponics system. The student evaluation indicated that they would share new learning with others, the curriculum met their expectations, and they highly recommend the program. In addition, teachers expressed a high level of satisfaction with the program’s alignment to the State standards and the utilization of STEM principles.

Poster has NOT been presented at any previous NACAA AM/PIC

This poster is being submitted for judging. It will be displayed at the AM/PIC if not selected as a State winner. The abstract will be published in the proceedings.

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Authors: C. K. Lauderdale
  1. Lauderdale, C. Ag. Agent, Horticulture, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, North Carolina, 27893