WALLINGFORD — Dozens of families gathered Monday at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre for an evening of math games and engineering challenges at the school district’s second annual STEM Challenge Night.
The event was open to all grade levels, and kids from elementary through high school attended with parents and friends.
Curriculum coordinators Christie Madancy, math, and Kate O’Donnell, for science and technology, organized the event.
There were tables of math challenges students could try based on grade level, and a science challenge of building a car out of K’Nex toys and powered by sails.
They also got the chance to meet representatives from nine local manufacturers, including Nucor Steel, Amphenol and Hobson-Motzer, as a way to make a practical connection between what they were learning in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math, and how they could use it beyond the classroom.
Tim Ryan, the town’s economic development specialist, attended the event. He said he hopes many of the manufacturing businesses will be beneficiaries of STEM-focused activities, as the kids become workforce-ready.
“It opens up career opportunities,” he said. “We want to make sure that they are aware that there are plenty of opportunities here in Wallingford.”
Eva Ardito, 9, attends Pond Hill School. She’s passionate about science and math, but also art. She was the only third-grader from her school to participate in the school district’s Invention Convention in March.
“I want to be a geologist, an engineer, and an art teacher,” she said.
During the summer, she completed 20 of the STEM activities created by a team of school district curriculum coordinators, which were available through the app GooseChase and a summer learning “passport” packet of activities.
“She’s just always liked to put things together,” said Gianna Ardito, Eva’s mother. “I think it extends into her love of art. She just loves creating things.”
Carrie LaTorre, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said she was pleased with the number of families that participated, which took them to many local spots to complete science, math and physical activities. “It really was a nice way to integrate with what we’re doing with the community,” she said. “It’s a way to integrate their learning throughout the school year and into the summer months in a really fun and engaging way.”