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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


STEAM students enjoy a day at South Centers

By Bradford Sherman
South Centers/CFAES

Fourth grade STEAM students from the Scioto Valley Local School District visited The Ohio State University South Centers in May to learn more about facility’s various program areas and some of its signature research projects.

STEAM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics education. Related closely to the more commonly known STEM, STEAM focuses on sparking imagination and creativity through the arts in ways that naturally align with STEM learning.

Students visiting the fish hatchery.It was an exciting day for the students as they interacted with South Centers staff to learn more about aquaponics, aquaculture, and specialty crops. It was also an emotional one for K-4 Educational Technology teacher Jennifer Buckler in one of her final activities leading the STEAM program.

“Observing my 4th grade students during the tours at OSU South Centers was the best exit ticket an educator could ask for,” Buckler said. “This field trip left me emotional. The way my students interacted with the OSU Research staff, their use of proper terms and vocabulary, the relationships they made to prior knowledge, and engagement through questioning was exemplary.”

Students enjoying a wagon ride tour of the research plots.Students visited with Research Associate Thom Harker to learn about how crops like lettuce can grow on top of the water in an aquaponics system. He explained that aquaponics is a food production system that pairs aquaculture with hydroponics whereby the nutrient-rich aquaculture water is fed to hydroponically grown plants.

“The aquaponics greenhouse setup really captured their interest with a much larger setup than we were able to have in class, but same overall concept. They really showed off for their homeroom teachers by answering the questions proudly and making connections to their own projects at school,” added Buckler.

Farm Manager Wayne Lewis then led a wagon tour of the South Centers research plots, making stops along the way and explaining more about current projects including long cane raspberry production, tabletop-grown and high tunnel strawberries, hops, and more.

One of the most popular attractions for the youngsters, as it commonly is, was the fish hatchery. Research Assistant Dean Rapp spoke about the genetic research projects involving yellow perch and bluegill and allowed students to get an up-close view of the various fish species present in the hatchery and ponds, including the massive sturgeons that have lived on the campus for decades.

South Centers Senior Event Coordinator Bridget Robertson says that South Centers is proud to help support STEAM education by welcoming groups like these to our campus.

“It is point of pride for us to be able to play in role in educating young people. Seeing their eagerness to learn, the intelligent questions they asked, and how they participated in the activities during their time here was a real treat for me and our entire staff. Maybe they even saw career path they are interested in during their visit here,” said Robertson.

Research Associate Thom Harker shows off the aquaponics system.Buckler praised the benefits of STEAM education, including the skills it teaches, and how participation in it can set students on a path for future success.

“STEAM learning and inquiry-based instruction encourages active, often hands-on, experiences that support building understanding and vocabulary, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, reflection and makes connections to real world occupations,” she said.

“Schools that give students an introduction to STEAM are providing a way for their students to escape poverty. Research supports that STEAM education allows students to gain access to a world of higher-paying jobs and improves their odds of succeeding in any profession.”

Any school or community groups interested in touring the South Centers should contact Robertson at 614-247-9757 or by email at Centers Director Dr. Tom Worley welcomes the students to the campus.