By Antoinette “Toni” Acri, La Roche College
During Alternative Spring Break (ASB) with United Way of Central Maryland, I had the opportunity to volunteer with Henderson-Hopkins middle school students from Baltimore. Our project was teaching kids using our state-of-the-art STEM invention kits, thanks to a partnership with Best Buy. STEM stands for “science, technology, engineering and math,” and for many of these young people who come from an economically depressed area, making science fun can help them learn critical skills that could lead to a better job — and a brighter future.
ASB volunteers helped with three creative STEM projects – using bananas to conduct electricity, building a smart phone app and creating a stop-motion animation video. Stop motion is an animation technique: taking pictures of an object and moving it between pictures so when the pictures are played together, it creates the illusion that the object is moving.
The kids on my team couldn’t wait to start planning their video. It was sometimes challenging keeping the kids focused but I made sure they all had something to work on. While we worked I asked them what they wanted to do when they grew up. One student wanted to go into the military, another wanted to be a singer and the other a lawyer.
The students were really excited once we started filming – taking pictures of the items as we moved them slowly. When we put the pictures together and watched our finished video, I could see in their eyes how proud they were.
Henderson-Hopkins is a special school working together with United Way and other partners to provide opportunities for these kids – opportunities they don’t have at home and might not have at another school. Many of these kids live in really tough neighborhoods, so having a safe place to come and learn and express themselves helps them grow. Visiting the school for this activity taught me that every child, no matter what their background, can grow into a great student.