“Continue being inquirers.”
Evan Morton included the three-word encouragement as he taught class on a rainy Wednesday morning in a classroom at Faubion Middle School.
It was a class that involved poking stakes through balloons and creating slime, but also discussing things like polymer chains, exothermic reactions and the properties of thermoplastics.
It was all part of a STEM program geared towards 6th graders that McKinney ISD has kicked off in partnership with the Society of Plastics Engineers.
PlastiVan, a program presented by the Society of Plastics Engineers, features hands-on activities and demonstrations designed to engage students in the world of science and engineering through the lens of the plastics industry.
The program came to McKinney ISD’s Faubion Middle School for the first time last year as the result of a coordination between MISD Partners in Education Coordinator Nancy Cowlishaw and Dr. Sherrika Sanders, senior technical engineer with McKinney-based Manner Polymers.
“We’re actually the very first middle school in the state of Texas that offers the Society of Plastic Engineers PlastiVan program,” said Kendra Hanke, secondary science coordinator with MISD.
This month, the program returned to Faubion Middle School and also came to MISD’s Scott Johnson Middle School, too.
“The goal eventually is to have all of our middle school kids experiencing the PlastiVan education program while they’re in 6th grade,” Hanke said.
After going through the PlastiVan program, students also have the chance to join a STEM club. The experience includes an interactive field trip to Manner Polymers in McKinney and activities that expand on the topics covered through the PlastiVan experience.
“And then moving all the way up through high school, we would like to continue to support these kids as they’ve been involved in this STEM club after having this experience as a sixth grader,” Hanke said. “As they continue to move up, we have people that want to support them in writing national papers and presenting at national conferences and things based around potential STEM opportunities that they have in their future.”
Those are opportunities that could all start from a lesson in a 6th-grade science classroom as PlastiVan educators like Evan Morton teach students the science behind making slime.
On that Wednesday morning, as the class begins to wrap up, Morton leaves students with one final thought: a mantra that he says he lives by. He asks students to repeat it with him:
“I know, I can, I will.”
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