Eager young minds are not sitting idle all summer, as Dodge City Community College’s STEM Days gave kids the chance to learn STEM in a fun, accessible way.

DCCC held its final STEM day Friday, June 14, with nearly 150 students attending. The students participated in three 50-minute sessions – all with a similar theme but grade-appropriate material and presentations.

The STEM Days are designed to give kids a taste of science during a time when they’re not bombarded with all their other school work. The science is approachable and relatable, with simple, pragmatic activities to convey higher, more complex concepts.

DCCC professors Dr. Mary Scott, Anthony Aragon, and Sherry Curtis led the sessions. Students participated in activities that conveyed engineering and physics, microorganisms and parasites, bone structure and evolution – all individually tailored for specific age groups. Students were grouped into elementary, middle, and high school categories.

The bulk of the students attending were in the elementary and middle school, which Curtis said is a good thing. It’s more difficult to reach older students in the summer because of jobs and other obligations.

"We want to introduce STEM concepts to our students as early as possible," Curtis said. "STEM Days hopefully sparks their minds to keep actively learning during the summer. We just expose them to the STEM topics and allow them to discover."

Afton and Russell Linderer brought their two children from Larned for the DCCC STEM Days. Their children are already tech-savvy and they are voracious STEM learners, but opportunities are rare for exposure outside the standard classroom.

The Linderer’s said when a chance like this arises, they do what they can to let their kids "get really hands-on with science," Russell said.

The Linderer’s are deeply involved in 4-H in Pawnee County. They pointed out how science and technology are permeating the agriculture sector, and they’re hoping that by encouraging their children’s STEM interests, they’ll incorporate it into their 4-H projects.

"I grew up with Lincoln Logs and tinker toys, but this is the world they are growing up in," Russel said. "If kids now don’t understand this stuff they are going to struggle."

The DCCC STEM Days give students an up-close and hands-on experience. They saw real microorganisms and parasites under the college’s newest microscopes, handled real bones and saw the tiny variations created over eons, and built working prototypes for engineering experiments.

"So often in class they just talk about science but they don’t get to actually do it," Afton said. "With the STEM Days, they get to see and experience. It allows them to experiment and see what happens when they do it this way or that way."

"They’re learning the scientific method and putting it in practice," Russell said, "and it’s fun so I know they’ll remember this."