K-12 Volunteer Opportunities During Engineers Week 2023

Engineers Week takes place February 19–25, 2023, and serves as a year-round reminder to share the vital role engineering plays in our daily lives and on a global scale, and to engage with students about engineering.

This year, I wanted to volunteer in my son’s first grade classroom for Engineers Week. Having worked at AIChE since 2011, I often tried to explain to my son what exactly an engineer is and why they’re important. I couldn’t think of a better way to go a step further than to do a fun experiment with his class.

K-12 Modules

AIChE’s K-12 Community goal is to increase interest, awareness, and excitement for science and engineering in K-12 students and prepare future engineering students and professionals to creatively solve technical challenges in an ethical, environmentally responsible, and socially conscious way. One of my favorite resources that this community provides to members are the K-12 modules, which are searchable by audience grade and topic.

Join AIChE's K-12 Community

Bouncy balls

For our project, I could think of no better experiment for 22 first graders than making bouncy balls, and everyone had a blast! With the help of my son’s first grade teacher, the school’s science teacher, and a volunteer, we managed to guide the students through each step of the experiment with relative ease. They were eager to learn, be heard, and to bounce their balls.

Many asked really insightful questions about lab safety, and about testing our balls after to see how far they could bounce and how high. What stood out to me was how excited everyone was to “be scientists” by wearing safety glasses and measuring their ingredients with the upmost care. The other adults and I had a great time moving between tables encouraging students to continue mixing to form their balls, and the awe that inevitably came. Then – of their own volition – students moved to the area set up for our scientists to bounce the balls and see how far they would go along a measuring tape.

Despite the food coloring involved in our project (and overall general mess of glue and cornstarch), we left the students and makers workshop only slightly more green than when we arrived – which is a win to me.

Making an impact

I left my son’s elementary school feeling good from volunteering and being reminded that the sooner we introduce kids to science, the less scary it is. I learned that first graders have a much better understanding of science than I expected, and I was struck by how eager they were to get it right and see the experiment through. I am always left in awe of teachers and their never-ending patience and ability to make each child feel seen and heard.

Over the next week, I heard from so many parents how excited their children were to come home and tell them about the experiment and show off their new balls, and I couldn't help but smile and think about the next generation of little engineers.