Elementary engineering

UWL students who created and taught an engineering program for 2nd graders in La Crosse presented about it at a Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers conference.

What’s one way to get young students interested in science and engineering? Bring in superheroes!

That’s exactly what Lisa Stundahl and her fellow UWL education-related majors did when they created an after-school program for students in La Crosse focused on science and engineering. The college students tasked the 2nd graders with building and designing a house that would be safe and stable for Batman.

Around 15 students participated in the program, held at Northside Elementary in La Crosse. It was broken into five sessions spread over five weeks. On top of the fun concept, the educators were able to tie in their surroundings. “We wanted the students to recognize there are houses on the bluffs here in La Crosse too,” says Stundahl. “The land can and has eroded away. It’s a real issue making sure people can live on the bluffs and be safe.”

The youngsters, according to the college students, picked up more than just engineering knowledge too. “Some of these kids come in with a stigma that it’s school and boring,” says Megan Gresl, a middle childhood-early adolescence major. “But programs like these help us reach more kids in a better way.”

It also helps the students like Gresl and Stundahl, who had already completed their student teaching requirements, get another perspective on their future roles as educators while engaging with the community. These are two goals in UWL’s strategic plan, Sustaining Excellence.

WATCH: How this program helped a student land a job

Supplies for the program were funded in part by the UWL Foundation Small Grants Program. It helps campus community members with research, conferences and programs, like this one. The Small Grants Program is made possible through donations to the Foundation’s unrestricted fund mainly by alumni, local businesses, matching gifts from companies and other friends of the university.

“If we didn’t have that funding, we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” says Stundahl. “These real experiences are so important.”