A 4-H rollercoaster ride to help with STEM learning

A 4-H rollercoaster ride to help with STEM learning
Dave Mast

Killbuck third-grade students work with Holmes County 4-Her and Holmes Junior Fair Board member Andi Schuch on the 4-H roller coaster STEM project being promoted by Ella Lorentz of the Holmes County OSU Extension.


What better way to convey the excitement of something than a twisting, turning and fast-paced ride on a roller coaster, where wild fun is the name of the game?

This spring Ella Lorentz, educator with Holmes County Ohio State Extension, is taking the roller coaster experience on the road to local third-grade classes, where sharing the joys of 4-H is only part of the purpose.

Since joining the extension office, one of Lorentz’s goals has been to connect with elementary-age kids and create opportunities for STEM learning, and coupling it with promoting everything Holmes County 4-H offers is even better.

STEM learning focuses on promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and finding new and inventive ways to connect youth with that style of learning has been an exciting challenge for Lorentz, who has previously utilized apples and chicks in her effort.

This spring it has all been about roller coasters. She has asked third-graders to build roller coasters and experiment on how they can get a marble along the tracks they build safely to the bottom while creating the coolest and fastest roller coaster possible.

“We let the youth use pipe insulation to build the track and let them use their creativity to make roller coasters,” Lorentz said. “Not only does it create STEM learning, but it also promotes teamwork.”

The goal here is to have the children learn about kinetic and potential energy, and it is a very hands-on activity that encompasses everything about 4-H.

“The 4-H program is learning by doing,” Lorentz said. “That is primarily using your hands and your brain to think through problems, much like it is working through a 4-H project.”

Lorentz traveled all over Holmes County, connecting with nearly every third-grade class at the various schools in East and West Holmes.

“We talk about the different energy levels, and after we’re done, we talk about how that can transition into a 4-H project,” Lorentz said. “The hope is that the kids grow to realize that science and math can be fun and they can take what they learn and apply it to other areas of life.”

In addition to meeting with the kids, Lorentz has 4-H camp counselors go with her to each school to help groups of kids build their roller coasters.

She said if older youth want to go to junior camp, they must receive 24 hours of training with younger members of the community, and this opportunity extends an invitation for them to get some of those hours in, courtesy of a hands-on process.

“It gives our older kids experience in working with the younger kids, and it allows the youth to get to know them better. And let’s face it: These high school kids are much cooler than I am,” Lorentz said.

At Killbuck Elementary, Holmes County 4-H club members Gabby Yates, Jenna Sheldon, Brianna Poventud and Andi Schuch joined Lorentz on her crusade around the county.

Sheldon, the newly elected Holmes County Junior Fair Board president, said the opportunity to promote 4-H to the younger kids is exciting.

“As a third-grader, they are eligible to become involved with 4-H, so we like to go to all of the third-grade classes around the county and give the kids an idea about what 4-H is, all of the activities they might experience, and we do these fun activities with them so they can get excited about 4-H,” Sheldon said.

She said young minds are more open to learning more, and the high school kids have plenty of experience to share with them through all of their club experience and activities through 4-H.

“There’s so much to do and experience that goes way beyond just raising animals for the fair,” Sheldon said. “That’s what most kids tend to see at the fair, but we have so many more ways to invest in programs, like sewing, robotics, rockets and more. There’s something for everyone.”

The high school 4-Hers also extolled the virtues of 4-H Camp and how much fun it is.

As a camp counselor who leads younger kids from both Holmes and Knox counties, Sheldon said the number of friends one can make at camp is only limited by how outgoing any given youngster is.

“I have made so many friends when I went to camp, and I know we all have grown and made friends in so many ways through 4-H and 4-H Camp,” Sheldon said. “Our hope is that these types of events will help open the eyes of the kids as to all of the excitement and fun they can have in 4-H.”

To learn more about Holmes County 4-H Camp, visit holmes.osu.edu/program-areas/4-h-youth-development/holmes-county-4-h-camp. You also can follow Holmes County 4-H on Facebook.

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