Saturday science program offers eighth-graders extras, from robo - | WBTV Charlotte

Saturday science program offers eighth-graders extras, from robots to naked mole rats

Science coach Marcus McKoy helps Savannah Stevey, 11, look through a device that replicates a cornea of the eye to see how the eye flips an image at a certain distance. (Source: Diedra Laird | The Charlotte Observer) Science coach Marcus McKoy helps Savannah Stevey, 11, look through a device that replicates a cornea of the eye to see how the eye flips an image at a certain distance. (Source: Diedra Laird | The Charlotte Observer)
Nee-Cole McRae and Dianne Klay inspect each other's eyes during an exercise looking at the parts of the eye and trying to match them with a cross section on a screen during the STEM session.  (Source: Diedra Laird | The Charlotte Observer) Nee-Cole McRae and Dianne Klay inspect each other's eyes during an exercise looking at the parts of the eye and trying to match them with a cross section on a screen during the STEM session. (Source: Diedra Laird | The Charlotte Observer)
Jessica Espinoza, 7, looks through a device that replicates a cornea of the eye, during Saturday’s final STEM session of the year at Ashley Park Elementary.  (Source: Diedra Laird | The Charlotte Observer) Jessica Espinoza, 7, looks through a device that replicates a cornea of the eye, during Saturday’s final STEM session of the year at Ashley Park Elementary. (Source: Diedra Laird | The Charlotte Observer)
CHARLOTTE, NC (Ann Doss Helms/The Charlotte Observer) -

Ashley Park Principal Meaghan Loftus insists her eighth-graders weren’t upset when she asked them to attend Saturday school.

The STEAM Saturday classes that just wrapped up for the year are a reward for top students, not a catch-up program for those who struggle. The activities, provided by the Charlotte-based nonprofit Digi-Bridge, include composing digital music, programming robots and using household supplies to explore kidney function.

The program also included weekday field trips to Discovery Place, SeaLife Aquarium and Duke University, all designed to boost STEAM skills. (It stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

Student Toni Teah blogged about the most noteworthy part of the Discovery Place trip: “One animal that almost everyone was shocked to touch was a naked mole rat… A NAKED MOLE RAT!! He is naked because he has a genetic mutation that makes him not have any hair like a normal mouse or rodent. Cool isn’t it?”

Digi-Bridge provides STEAM Saturday classes around the county at $25 per student per session, but has gotten grants to serve about 500 low-income students at Ashley Park and Allenbrook schools and Renaissance West community center.

A $50,000 donation from the OrthoCarolina Foundation is covering costs for elementary students at Ashley Park, along with the new group of high-performing eighth-graders.

For Loftus, the middle school group, which was added this school year, provides a chance to address a criticism of combined elementary/middle schools like Ashley Park: Not enough advanced classes for top students.

“The provision of opportunity for our scholars who are performing at or above grade-level is a next critical step in our work,” Loftus said.

Learn more about Digi-Bridge at http://digi-bridge.org/ or 704-412-9147.

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