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District 181 STEM programs look to spark interest in science

HINSDALE – Janet Stutz was out of breath when she answered her phone on a recent spring day.

She had just exited the Clarendon Hills Middle School gym, where District 181 staff was introducing students to more than 70 labs as part of the STEM program, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

"I'm not kidding, it's a riot," said Stutz, the assistant superintendent for learning at District 181. "They're having a blast."

The students in grades kindergarten through eighth got to experiment on April 17 with a variety of activities during their physical education class time, such as learning about different types of energy, buoyancy and looking at infrared images through hands-on demonstrations.

Stutz said the STEM program was brought to District 181 as a response to the changing curriculum.

"Just like common core in language arts and math have been revised, what's happened is there's a new generation of science standards and it's really focused around science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Stutz said.

These programs and activities are being used to get kids more interested in the those subjects, as Stutz said some may find the material too difficult, so they're immediately put off.

"When they engage in it, in this particular way when it's hands on and they get to experience science like this, it does increase the level of interest for kids, I think," she said.

The STEM events in District 181 are part of Northern Illinois University's STEM Outreach program. Daytime events will be held throughout the spring at each of the district's nine schools.

The next STEM event that's open to the public will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 21 at Hinsdale Middle School, 100 S. Garfield Ave., Hinsdale.

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