Press release from United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County:
February 27, 2019, Asheville, NC – 200 STEM Kits will be distributed to students in 4th and 7th grade in Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools this winter, including Oakley Elementary, Montford North Star Academy, and Owen Middle. United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County joined forces with GE Aviation and Buncombe County Schools to create these kits as educational take-home activities to engage and educate students and parents.
“We knew there was a focus on STEM during school as well as in out-of-school activities and wanted to develop a supplemental STEM kit so that students and their families could do fun activities together at home,” shares United Way’s Volunteer Engagement Director Michelle Bennett. “We aren’t experts in STEM or education, our job is to engage volunteers and others around community impact through volunteerism, which is why we paired both GE Aviation and Buncombe County Schools to develop this needed project.”
Two different kits were created by GE Aviation with grade-level standard feedback from K-12 Science Specialist for Buncombe County Schools Brian Maccarelli and K-12 Math Specialist Stefanie Buckner. One kit contains a map of North Carolina with challenge questions, allowing students to map routes to specific locations and use math to calculate distance traveled. The second project is a makeshift car kit where students take on the task of learning to engineer a rubber band-powered vehicle using small wooden wheels, dowel rods, and rubber bands using the scientific method to hypothesize the effects of wheel size on distance traveled by the vehicle. Within each kit, students will also receive a profile card, featuring a GE Aviation employee, sharing their name, title, and a deeper understanding of how their role helps support the production of airplane parts.
“We’re hoping this gives the kids some ideas about the types of things that they can do in an industry that’s focused on tech,” shares Sarah Congleton, Lead Production Quality Specialist at GE Aviation in Asheville as she and Stefanie Buckner, K-12 Math Specialist for Buncombe County Schools sit analyzing the map of N.C. while walking through questions in the kit. Buckner adds, “I don’t think our students realize what we have here or what opportunities exist for them to be able to stay and thrive in this area. That’s also really helpful for parents to understand the major manufacturing that happens here and the great job opportunities within this field.”
This project will join one of the many opportunities that United Way’s volunteer center, Hands On Asheville-Buncombe, facilitates for businesses and teams under the banner of Business United. Through Business United, United Way is able to do two things; address community needs and help local businesses manage their own philanthropic and employee engagement goals.
“Studies show that employee retention is improved through workplace satisfaction which includes community engagement and volunteer activity,” said Michelle Bennett. Business United experiences are designed to include engagement goals like building camaraderie and team-building among participants. Projects often take place at the workplace providing education about a community issue alongside an activity that everyone is able to work on together, producing a tangible product that helps fill a community need.
Recent Business United opportunities have included creating snack packs for middle school students facing food insecurity, personal care kits for homeless students, care kits for families facing domestic violence, and more. STEM Kit creation will now be a part of these project offerings for companies looking for unique ways to stay informed on community issues and help make a collective impact.
About United Way’s Volunteer Center, Hands On Asheville-Buncombe
Hands On Asheville-Buncombe, the volunteer center of United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, makes it easy to get involved in meaningful volunteer opportunities with nonprofit organizations in Asheville and Buncombe County. Annually, Hands On connects more than 3,000 people to hundreds of opportunities. For more information, visit handsonasheville.org or contact us at (828) 255-0696.