Kierra Giarrusso, 18, of Exeter, Rhode Island, a senior at Exeter-West Greenwich Regional High School, worked with a classmate to develop a weeklong summer educational program that enabled 30 elementary school students to learn basic science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) concepts by conducting fun experiments. Kierra struggled with math when she was in elementary school, and recognized that she needed to work on her skills during the summer as well as during the school year. “I was always assigned summer reading projects, but never math,” she said. “Students need to engage in programs during the summer to support the retention of math and science information, as well as reading.”
So in March 2018, Kierra set out to address that issue by starting the first STEAM summer program in the Exeter-West Greenwich area. With the help of her classmate, she researched similar programs in other places, drafted a curriculum, and tested experiments to use in her program. Within one week of distributing registration forms, 30 kids in second to fourth grade had signed up, filling all of the available slots. Once the program began last August, high school students and a teacher recruited by Kierra helped supervise hands-on activities that employed things such as sugar crystals, lava lamps, salt painting, an egg drop and a car engineering challenge to teach the young attendees STEAM concepts. It was truly rewarding, said Kierra, “to see their eyes light up with delight when they understood the concepts.” She plans to offer two sessions of her program next year, along with a nighttime session for older students, and already has a waiting list of interested participants.