Eins-Team gives kids a taste of engineering science

News-DemocratMarch 2, 2014 

Vibration creates sound? It seemed like a pretty crazy idea to students at Growing Scholars Educational Center.

Teachers Desiree Tyus and Nora Nordike set out to prove their point by staging experiments, including one with homemade amplifiers.

Children tied strings to wire coat hangers, wrapped the other ends of the strings around their ears and swung the hangers against a wall.

"Did you here that burrrrnnnn?" asked an excited T'Andre Harper, 7, of O'Fallon.

"It sounds like a guitar string," said Rommy Puspitasari, 11, of O'Fallon.

"It sounds like those things (cymbals) you bang together," added James Tyus, 8, of Swansea, Desiree's son.

Growing Scholars is a private tutoring center in Fairview Heights. T'Andre, Rommy and James are enrolled in its Eins-Team Engineering 4 Kidz program.

One goal is to expose children to engineering concepts and careers.

"There is a high demand for engineers, and there aren't enough people to fill those positions," said Desiree, 35, of Swansea, who also serves as executive director.

The second goal is to fill a void in some public schools, which focus mainly on reading and math.

"Some schools don't even offer science anymore," said Desiree, a former teacher and counselor with a master's degree in education.

"They try to tie it to their reading curriculum. They'll say they studied science because they read a story on weather or talked about oxygen."

Eins-Team is part of the national STEM movement, which holds that early engagement and increased access to science, technology, engineering and math leads to greater success.

Caleb Brandon, 9, of O'Fallon, is one of those kids who can't get enough science. He attends Eins-Team classes on Tuesday nights.

"We don't have to drag him here," said father Bob Brandon, 39. "He's ready to go."

Caleb wants to be an aerospace engineer when he grows up.

"I would probably study the planets," he said. "No, I would study the whole solar system, and maybe I'd go up there."

Jennifer Whitaker brings her 8-year-old son, Aidan, for Eins-Team. He dreams of building a teleportation machine someday.

Jennifer feels public schools do a good job -- within limits.

"(Aidan is) really good at math and reading and science," she said. "But he's in second grade with 27 kids. It's hard for teachers to offer individualized attention."

Eins-Team originally was developed for "gifted" students. Today, it's open to all children in kindergarten through eighth grade, including those with special needs.

All are exposed to broad concepts, while older kids soak up more advanced information and help younger kids with experiments.

"(Teachers) play the part," said Nora, 25, of Columbia, who also works as a Title I aide at Ellis Elementary School in Belleville. "We wear lab coats and goggles, and we use scientific terminology, like flocculation and air resistance."

A new Eins-Team session starts every eight weeks with a different focus. Students might develop a water-purification system in environmental engineering or build rocket ships with household supplies in aerospace engineering.

The current session is acoustical engineering. After a recent lesson, students made "sound sandwiches" with Popsicle sticks, rubber bands and straws.

They blew into the sandwiches and created what sounded like a symphony of duck calls.

"We're energetic," said Eric Walls, 12, of Fairview Heights. "We like to make noise."

Eins-Team Engineering 4 Kidz

Where: Growing Scholars Educational Center, 6322 Old Collinsville Road in Fairview Heights.

When: Classes meet from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

Eligibility: Open to students in kindergarten through eighth grade

Class size: 30 students

Sessions: Children can sign up at any time, but a new engineering focus (ranging from aerospace to environmental to acoustical) begins every eight weeks

Fee: $148 for an eight-week session or $75 for four weeks, which includes materials

Information: Call 618-628-4769 or email lbaker@growingscholarscenter.com

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