GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 200-7
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM


LAMM, Sarah, Department of Geology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66502, BOSCH, Jeanette S., Independent STEM Outreach/Education Coordinator, Manhattan, KS 66502, GONZALEZ, Yesenia, Dallas, TX 75390 and BOSCH, Lynette D., Trinity Academy, Wichita, KS 67206

STEM education is a vital part of growing the next generation of scientists. However, rural students are an often overlooked demographic. Rural students have limited access to museums and other external educational opportunities in their communities. This forces them to travel many hours and pay additional costs to have the same STEM opportunities as suburban and/or urban students. Both my outreach collaborator and myself know firsthand these struggles since we both grew up in rural Kansas. As a way to bridge the gap between rural students and accessible STEM programs, my collaborator and I held a mini outreach series called “Mars in Northwest Kansas.”

Our series consisted of an hour long program presented in nine different communities in eight counties in rural Kansas. The largest town had a population of ~5,500 and the smallest town was ~200. The series was a collaboration with the local libraries and summer schools. Each program was free and open to the public. We advertised online and local newspapers picked up the story.

In most locations, we broke the audience into two groups, based on age. One group would listen to a child-friendly lecture on the Mars rover, Curiosity, which included both English and Spanish written descriptions. We also had a full scale Curiosity Rover made out of PVC pipe and silver fabric, to display how large the real rover is. The other group would do age appropriate activities (paper helicopter experiments for older groups and straw rockets for younger groups) on a Giant Mars Map. After 20 minutes the groups would switch. Once each group saw both presenters, the last 20 minutes was used for outdoor rocket launches. The children were able to launch air pump rockets, while I would prepare a baking soda and lemon juice rocket. In addition to the presentations, we also gave out free postcards, posters, and stickers.

The outreach series brought in almost 500 participants, from three states, 16 different counties, and 24 communities. The smallest audience was 16 and the largest was 113, with an average of ~53. The audience saw presenters who grew up in rural Kansas and who have succeeded in STEM careers. Our outreach series made a real impact on Northwest Kansas by giving the public opportunities to learn about the Curiosity Rover in their own communities and providing opportunities that are not readily available.