Students use small budget to create 'out of this world' museum

Two students show off their interactive exhibit at the Scott Charter School Astronomy Museum. (KATV Photo)

Schools across the country are fighting for funding for science, technology, and math programs, but one Arkansas school is proving you don't need a big budget to teach big concepts.

Dr. Constance Meadors meets with a dozen students an hour a day after classes, as part of Scott Charter School's STEM program. This year, the group wanted to inspire kids outside the program, so they set about creating a museum. They had no funding - so they built their own equipment and asked for loans from universities.

Walking into the Scott Charter School Astronomy Museum, you might think these astronomy exhibits were put together by high schoolers or even college students. But this museum is the brain child of 3rd through 6th graders and their teacher.

They worked all year building these projects. The goal was for students across the school, "to be able to participate in stem to be exposed to ideas regarding stem, because some students would never consider a science career," explains Dr. Meadors.

Using only materials they had on hand, and resources borrowed from colleges in the region, they assembled a flight simulator and learned how to use it, built an interactive model of a space shuttle, wired an operation style game to teach kids about electricity, in addition to painting a wall to show how eclipses work.

"Often it's just hooking up a fan, and they realize, 'Oh wow, I can make something work!' Then that may be just what you need to open the door for someone to think, 'I want to do this,'" says Meadors.

And Scott Charter School Students are inspired. When you ask them what they want to be? "An engineer... For NASA!" "I would like to explore if there is life in space, like aliens," says another.

For Dr. Meadors watching her students gravitate towards careers in STEM is incredible, but seeing them understand how things work is even better: "I get a little emotional just to see when students can explain and their eyes light up."

She adds that she's started an initiative called "Change the Rules," in the hopes of getting more women and minorities involved. She hopes to see more schools promoting STEM, even if they don't have the funding.

For their exhibits, Scott Charter Schools used resources on hand and around the students homes: paint, papier mache, chicken wire, cardboard, batteries, wire, and lights.

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