Science takes center stage at Mays Chapel Elementary School's Family STEM Night

Mays Chapel Elementary School was filled with noise, laughter and curiosity Thursday, as the school held its third annual Family STEM Night in the gym and cafeteria.

The event combined a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fair for 4th- and 5th-grade students with interactive stations from the Maryland Science Center, where students could learn about hydraulics, conductivity, vision, coding, and many other aspects of science and engineering.


This year is the third in which the school has held the event, according to 5th-grade teacher and STEM coordinator Lauren Caplan. The school opened in 2014.

The event was bigger this year, Principal Steve Coco said. The Maryland Science Center brought additional learning stations, for a total of 12. A food cart and snow cone truck were added as a convenience for parents, and the school's jazz band played outside, making the evening a community event, Coco said. Roughly 750 people were expected to attend the event, and when it began at 6 p.m., the gym and cafeteria were packed.


In the cafeteria, parents and students got the chance to examine 4th- and 5th-grade science fair projects, which were displayed in slide shows on laptop computers instead of on the traditional three-panel boards. The projects had been judged earlier in the day by AP Biology students from Dulaney High School, according to Caplan.

Third graders at the school also displayed small vehicles they made in groups using recycled materials. The vehicles, called safe racers, were designed to hold and protect an egg during a crash test, and to go the farthest distance.

In the gym, the Maryland Science Center set up its stations, which students crowded around. One station featured animal masks that gave the wearer an idea of how a cat or owl might see. Another featured small hydraulic lifts that were controlled by tubes of colored water.

Tamischer Nettles, of Cockeysville, a Mays Chapel parent, said she liked that students could see their own work on display in the cafeteria and then move to the gym, where, through the science center activities, they could further develop an interest in science.

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That was exactly the evening's goal, Coco said.

"It's really about creating excitement around science," Coco said.

The Maryland Science Center attended the event through an outreach program that helps the nonprofit's mission of increasing understanding and appreciation of science, technology, engineering and math, said Pete Yancone, the center's senior director of education. The center holds similar programs, called family science nights, throughout the region. The event at Mays Chapel also included additional engineering activities, Yancone said.

The night mirrored what takes place at The Maryland Science Center museum, located near Baltimore's Inner Harbor, every day, Yancone said. The school's Parent Teacher Organization sponsored the science center activities at a cost of $2,250, according to Caplan.


The winners of the STEM fair will advance to compete against other elementary schools this May, Caplan added.

Students Narae Kang, Charlie Kunkel, Grant Price and Rizwan Thorne-Lyman won the fourth grade competition with a project on the efficiency of various materials, such as kevlar, rip stop, silk and canvas, in parachutes. Students Natalie Koors, Christina Hewitt, Susant Karki and Desi Arrup won the fifth grade contest with a project about how candy dyes a person's mouth — though they used wash cloths instead of mouths to complete the experiment.

The projects were completed in school, Caplan added, which evens the playing field because some students have more help than others at home.