Watchung Hills Student Niharika Iyer Earns Girl Scouts Gold Award
In working towards her Gold Award, an 80-hour service project through the Girl Scouts organization, Niharika Iyer discovered her interest for helping popularize early STEM education. To target this issue and develop a maintainable solution, she created a five-course program that utilized activity-based learning called “STEM Saturdays” for older elementary school aged children which found its home in the Warren Township Library on June 1stand 8th, 2019. Research has shown that in comparison to other OECD nations, the United States has traditionally had lower test scores in areas related to STEM. The STEM-centric jobs showing rapid growth and are typically in the field of computer science. The lessons developed reflected Iyer’s belief that these can best be tackled by introducing young children to a variety of subjects that fall under these topics. The attendees participated in programs called All About Atoms, Building Basics, Chemistry of Water, Number Theory Tips and Tricks, and the Logic of Programming over the course of the two Saturdays in June.
With the help of some of her Watchung Hills Regional High School peers who are well-versed in the subjects, Iyer ran activities such as creating a Rube Goldberg machine to teach engineering, building model atoms using marshmallows and gumdrops, and forming characters in SCRATCH programming. These were paired with worksheets and lessons that gave the participants a deeper understanding of the subjects and an opportunity to ask questions. Those familiar with the Gold Award project know that sustainability is an incredibly important aspect. In order to ensure that as many students as possible benefit from this project, Iyer has created kits containing activities and worksheets that can be found in the Warren Township Library.
Niharika Iyer’s “STEM Saturdays” project would not have been possible without the incredible support of the Somerset County Library System staff, her advisors Mrs. Holl, Dr. Cooper, and Ms. Katie Thomas, and the peers who helped her organize and run the lessons: Vivian Zhang, Mayur Sharma, Sana Mamtaney, Jagdeep Bhatia, Calvin Khiddee-Wu, Jessica Young, Cassandra Apuzzo, and Melissa Gallic.