Episcopal Academy Students are Inspired by Experts with New STEM Speaker Series
Established through the generosity of the Clare Foundation, the goal of the specialized series is to expose students and faculty to dynamic, innovative, and creative thought leaders.
What do you want to be when you grow up? The question is asked of us from the time we are little, and our initial answers are largely based on the world around us, and the role models we have been shown. The friendly firefighter who waved to us from a flashy truck, the kind pediatrician who made us feel at ease during our checkup, the mad scientist who turned a pickle into a lightbulb?
It is unlikely that the kids at Episcopal Academy’s Lower School will soon forget their day with Doktor Kaboom—a larger-than-life German-accented scientist wearing a bright orange lab coat and steampunk safety goggles. And while he delighted the kids with scientific spectacles on stage, his mission was deeper than that: “Science is not hard. It takes effort, but that’s just work, that’s just life. If you apply yourself over time, you can do science! Science is for everyone.”
Episcopal Academy—a pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, independent, co-educational, day school in Newtown Square—is creating these experiences and memories from a young age, with an eye toward the future. Doktor Kaboom’s visit was a part of the Clare Foundation STEM Speaker Series at EA. Established through the generosity of the Clare Foundation, the goal of the specialized series is to expose students and faculty to dynamic, innovative, and creative thought leaders. Speakers were selected from a variety of sectors (public, private and education) and from a range of STEM fields.
While the Lower School was treated to exciting stage demonstrations, the Middle School met “The Space Gal,” MIT Engineer Emily Calandrelli. Though today Calandrelli is a successful author, television host, and executive producer, she admitted to the students that when growing up she was “intimidated by the smart kids in her class. But with hard work and dedication, you can make yourself one of the smart kids.” Calandrelli related her experiences, and urged students to consider studies and careers in STEM-related fields. “Careers in STEM give you the tools to make the world a better place.”
For Maya Raman, Class of 2025, this was eye-opening. “Ms. Calandrelli changed my perspective on aerospace engineering. I thought that it was going to be very boring, but from her fun experiences, it changed my mind! The presentation was very descriptive and funny. She showed passion in her words, and she spoke with confidence.”
Later in the year, NASA Astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle greeted Middle and Upper School students, and shared how her fascination with space began as a 10-year-old when she saw the 1969 Moon Landing. “Suddenly I no longer wanted to see the man on the moon; what I wanted to see was the view the man on the moon had looking back on Earth. At that moment, my dreams took wings, and I never looked back since.” Dr. Cagle went on to become commissioned as an Air Force officer, but always wanted to go higher, further, faster! In 1996, she was chosen for NASA’s highly-competitive astronaut training program. She has been to space three times and spent 42 days on the International Space Station. Dr. Cagle encouraged students to stay curious. “It all starts with curiosity, and it’s important to start early,” said Dr. Cagle. “That is what distinguishes us from robots. Robots don’t wonder, humans wonder.”
The real-life, shared experiences that EA students get from this speaker series are invaluable, in a way that reaches far beyond the school’s strong academic program. And for faculty, the series presents opportunities to learn from both content area experts and STEM education leaders in an effort to improve pedagogy and practice. Discussions and ideas that are created from the speaker series will further expand curricular opportunities for students and may spark the development of new programs.
And while the talks enhance the curriculum, kids are clearly getting more than just a science lesson. When Doktor Kaboom invited a shy little girl from the prekindergarten class onto the stage as his assistant, he told her, “You should believe in you, because you are magnificent! If anyone ever asks you ‘are you smart, are you talented, are you clever, are you creative?’ do not say, ‘I don’t know, maybe, I guess, sometimes, depends…’ You look them right in the eye and say, ‘Ya!’” Who knows how many more women scientists there would be today, if little girls had been told that generations ago?
Do you think Episcopal Academy is a good fit for your child or do you have questions for EA parents?
- October 3, 8:30 am: Prospective parents visit campus and experience a day at Episcopal.
- October 20, 1 pm (Middle/Upper School); 3 pm (Athletics)
- November 2, 10 am Lower School (PreK-2nd); 1 pm (3rd-5th Grade)
Join the conversation in the comments and visit Episcopal Academy for a personal tour by clicking here.
Photographs courtesy of Episcopal Academy.