STEM Summer Program for Kids 5-15

Sponsored by "Save Barnegat Bay" Initiative Grant Funding Through the Clare Foundation Made Possible by the Bay Head Recreation Department

The Vintage Automobile Museum (VAM) participated in a fun summer STEM program for kids, ages 5-15. Some of the other participants included: Rutgers Water Resources Program, Monmouth University Production, Save Barnegat Bay Non-Profit, Berkeley Township Search & Rescue, NJ Museum of Boating, Montclair State University, Jenkinson’s Aquarium, Forty North Oyster Farms, & Ocean County Parks.

Summer programs addressed lots of hands-on activities, which took place in mostly outdoor settings. However, VAM programs were held inside the car museum to showcase exhibits and provide interesting arts and crafts projects, including building their own air-propelled cars. All classes included a focus on science and physics, including the areas of technology, engineering, mathematics, and the arts. Denny Derion and Jean Voorhees provided instructional programs aimed at expanding students’ knowledge of the automobile and its importance. Science concepts were a natural by-product of these lessons, since Newton’s Laws of Motion can be illustrated clearly through observation and analysis of vehicles in motion; e.g., change of direction & force of movement.

Denny worked with students, ages 9-15, to address the topic of vehicle engineering. He briefly took them through a slide presentation and provided an overview of auto history, design, and basic operation & ways a car can be powered. Next students built, designed and operated balloon- and rubber band-powered cars to be taken home. Students answered questions such as “How stable is the design? How does friction, weight, drag or thrust configuration effect its performance?” The older student group looked at the topic of internal combustion. They observed the internal workings of how the pistons, valves, and spark plugs were sequenced to power the crankshaft.

Jean worked with the youngest group, ages 5-8. The topic addressed key concepts of motion & force with the essential question “How do cars go?” One of the primary lesson objectives was to jumpstart a young person’s curiosity for cars & collections. Students played a game similar to “I Spy” (using photos on a wooden stick) to identify and label, and locate various antiques in the museum. Since a museum is a collection of objects & things, it is important for students to learn about their significance in history, as they relate to past & present cultures and society at large.

During the lesson, a child’s pedal car (displayed at the museum) was used to illustrate parts of a car like the hood, engine, steering wheel, pedals, pistons, and gas tank. Students were asked to compare the action power between a car and bicycle. Steve Zboyan brought his antique English bicycle to the museum to talk about its various features, and show kids how it compares to today’s bicycles. Again, the topic of a bike’s gears/cranks, pedals, wheels & axels, energy and thrust were reinforced and evident in Steve’s presentation.

Younger kids experimented with air-propelled stomp racing cars to investigate the science of how cars move. Hands-on activities (and worksheets for noting observations & findings) allowed younger kids to better understand the concepts of air-propulsion, energy, force, and motion. They determined that jumping harder on the compressor provided a greater thrust that moved the racecar forward at a higher speed. A ramp allowed the car to change direction; as in Newton’s laws of motion, a steady speed will continue unless a force acts on it. It was obvious that the young kids enjoyed the stomp racer activity, and later took their racecars home to continue learning through play.
Finally, the program included a crafts activity for building your own car from at-home materials. Materials included: plastic water bottle, thread, sharp-pointed knife for piercing bottle (only used by adults), bottle caps, wheels/axels, craft decorations. Students enjoyed designing their own personal cars with favorite decals & stickers, foam decorations & alphabets. Wheels and axels allowed the group to experience first-hand how wheels play a key role in moving objects.
Overall, the “Save Barnegat Bay” (SBB) summer staff worked diligently with the museum and individual students to produce excellent science projects. Graceanne Taylor, Education & Outreach Coordinator for SBB, was instrumental in working with our instructors to accomplish a successful summer STEM program for everyone. Many thanks to Graceanne & her staff and the Bay Head Recreation Department for their efforts.
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