Balsa wood gliders, s’mores, fire, a treasure hunt, … and a sheep’s heart, those are all part of Penta
Career Center’s formula for helping middle school students fight the summer blahs.
The career center in Perrysburg Township sponsored a STEM – science, technology, engineering and math –
workshop earlier this month to give students going into grades seven through nine an opportunity to
explore science and technology and related career opportunities.
The 55 students spent last week at the career center sampling five of the newest programs Penta has to
"We’re trying to explain to students the career opportunities in these emerging fields," said
Jane Music, curriculum supervisor for the school.
Hands-on activities are the core of the program.
So Matt Herrig, who teaches the EMT and fire course, takes his students outside the school after having
explained just what a fire needs to spread.
Students light long strips of newsprint on fire, and then experiment with different ways of putting them
out. Stomping on it, or dousing it in water.
In the Green Energy Management class, taught by Kristie Reighard, students create their own solar ovens
using pizza boxes and aluminum foil in which they cook tacos and s’mores, which Music said were
"Anything involving food is a plus" with students, she said.
The summer classes, which are open to all students – public, private and home-schooled – from Penta’s
member districts, are funded with part of a STEM grant the school received from the state. The $250,000
also supported the creation of the geospatial information systems program and provided teacher training.
The GIS program was one of those featured. Teacher Dan Wyandt brought students outside along the pond
using Global Positioning System devices to locate objects. In the one day he has with students –
participants spend one day in each program – he can give them a basic idea on how satellite technology
works, and then some hands-on experience using it.
The technology, he said, was widely used. "We use this technology in just about any occupation. You
give me an occupation and I can tell you how it can be used."
Also out around the pond were students from the digital video production glass. They were using a
decidedly low-tech toy to learn some high-tech lessons.
Teacher David Harms was having them manipulate balsa wood gliders to see how long they could keep them
aloft. The world record is 60 seconds, but he wanted his students to try for longer.
They were also making a video documentary about their project.
Reasons for students attending varied. Mark Farley, from Perrysburg, said he’s planning to attend Penta
and the summer program is giving him a taste of what to expect.
Austin Davis, also of Perrysburg, said he’s usually bored during the summer and the STEM program
"seemed like it might be fun."
And it was proving to be the case.
David Lagasse from Otsego is also considering attending Penta. "This gives me something to do and a
chance to learn about Penta."
Sierra Semko, from Elmwood, said she likes math and science, so the STEM program naturally was of
interest to her.
She and Davis were busy dissecting a sheep’s heart, slicing it in two to get a good look at how it works.
It was part of the exercise science class.
Gretchen Reichow, who teaches the class, said the idea was to look inside the sheep’s heart and then to
discuss how people can keep their own hearts healthy.
Looking over the two seventh graders’ shoulders, she gently folded open a valve. That’s what is replaced
in valve replacement surgery, she explained.
Music said the program has been deemed a success. Given the number of students this year who expressed
interest in returning next summer, Penta may have to consider expanding the offerings.