Fun and education collided at Gullett Elementary's annual STEAM Night.
A rubber disc shoots through the air.
Kindergartner Elliott Knight scrambles over, grabs it, and inverts it back on the metal plate.
It shoots back up through the air again. He smiles, eyes bright through his safety goggles.
Elliott was learning about the forceful ways in which mantis shrimp smash into pray at the same velocity as an actual bullet.
“It’s something he loves,” said Elliott’s dad, Phillip Knight, in talking about his son’s love of science. That’s why he brought Elliott to B.D. Gullett’s STEAM Night on March 7.
STEAM Night — which explored science, technology, engineering, art and math — followed a theme of natural life. Students programmed robotic mice, reassembled digestive systems or held replicas of human and panther skulls.
Discovery teacher Sally Orr tracked the peak of the trajectory of the rubber discs on a sheet of graph paper behind the metal launch pad with the help of fifth-grade student Sam Deery.
Phillip Knight said the event was a unique opportunity for him to see his son in a school environment and witness the excitement of not only his son, but the other children in the school when it came to science.
Madelaine Verbeek, a museum educator with the South Florida Museum, engaged groups of inquisitive young students. Verbeek said events like this allow for students to learn in both meaningful and accessible ways by bringing the education to them.
And, Verbeek said, “It’s nice to get our name out.”
Stefani Lis, lab manager for Gullett, looked on as students explored the food chain of frogs and life cycles of butterflies in the art part of the night, which organizer and STEM lab teacher Charlotte Latham said was a new addition for this year’s event.
“The families love it,” Lis said, noting that students can take away a love of science through their attendance.
Sasha Corbo and her son, second-grader Benjamin, attempted brain surgery with materials provided by volunteers and students from LECOM.
Well, really, they were just putting together a plastic brain.
It was fun to see her son so engaged, Sasha Corbo said, and that he even got excited about flossing.
Lyndsay Soto brought her sons, third-grader Quinton Soto and first-grader Brennan Soto, to the event. They programmed mechanical mice, which zipped around on green tiles to their goal.
“I was surprised how all the codes made the mouse move to the end,” Quinton said. Of the night, he noted, “There’s a lot of cool things.”
Latham said the inspiration behind the event was for families to explore science with their children, and that spirit largely holds true.
It’s one thing for students to hear about STEAM in school, she said, and another to engage in it with their families.
“Every year, I see their faces, and it’s like ‘It worked!’” Latham said.
Beyond the learning, which is the main takeaway of the evening, Latham hopes families also took a good bit of fun away, too.
“Learning can be fun. It can involve the whole family,” she said. “It’s just something different.”