Katina Barnes of Butterfly Village Inc. Leads Virtual Workshop with Salt Water Battery Kit
In 2019, Katina Barnes launched Butterfly Village and its flagship program, the "She Can" STEM Academy. Butterfly Village brought STEM to middle school girls in-person via a partnership with the Boys & Girls club in Virginia. For Katina, an interactive experience is absolutely critical to building girls' self efficacy and confidence to approach STEM topics in high school and college and, ultimately, STEM careers.
Then COVID-19 hit. Katina moved her STEM Academy online, something she was nervous to do, but has since seen her reach grow and her girls stay engaged. While seeking activities that could be done virtually without much hands-on help from adults, Katina found the STEM Lab Salt Water Battery Kit.
"The girls' eyes lit up when they got their battery working."
"The friendliness of the packaging, the use of the cartoon characters, and the simplicity with which it was presented appealed to me," she said. Katina mailed kits to Academy participants, ranging from 5th to 9th graders, ahead of the virtual workshop where they would assemble the kits together via Zoom. "The girls were burning to open it up and get started. They wanted to open it early and see what was inside. It was like they were receiving a gift. The idea of creating their own batteries was interesting and exciting to them."
The night before the virtual workshop, Katina built a Salt Water battery herself. A self-described "instructions ignorer", she liked the illustrated build guide that shows each step of the process. When her LED light didn't illuminate after creating the circuit, Katina thought "Oh no, what have I done wrong!?" but she used the troubleshooting tips in the instructions to create a working circuit. "That's what science is about - tinkering, trying again, experimenting. And some of my girls had to try two or three times to get their circuits working, too, but I used that as a discussion starter about how scientists have to persevere."
The virtual workshop was a huge success. "There weren't too many parts or steps to be overwhelming, and the outcome was tangible. The girls' eyes lit up when they got their battery working."
Professor Pinkie Leads Education Outreach Program for 3-5th Graders
Pinkie works as an educator as part of the outreach program at one of the nation's top public universities. When COVID-19 forced her summer camp for elementary schoolers to go virtual, she had to adjust. "In the past, we'd have all the components for a project together in the classroom. Kids would grab an LED bulb from this box, grab some wire from this box, and so on. With the campers instead participating from their homes, we needed something that was pre-kitted and we could mail out."
Pinkie and her colleagues found the STEM Lab Salt Water and Potato Battery Kit online and compared it with other kits. The team knew they needed something that could be instructed remotely and provide about an hour of guided content with the potential for kids to explore "extension activities" at home. They all found the STEM Lab quality to be better than others and the instructions were more tailored to their audience of elementary school kids.
"Overall, my students really enjoyed setting up their potato battery experiments! "
Here's what else Pinkie had to say:
I used the salt water and potato battery kits for an online course for 3rd through 5th graders. Overall, the students experienced a lot of success constructing their batteries with potatoes as well as salt water.
The packaging of the box was neat and the labels made the kit easy to use for kids. I appreciate the inclusion of extra LEDs and wires in the kit as well. The activity booklet that came with the kit was excellent - the clear graphics and formatting made it easy for the kids to read and follow along.
The page with the description of what is happening within the battery is great and informative. I especially appreciated the troubleshooting page, as it helped me as well as my students figure out why their battery wasn't working properly. Every kid achieved success in constructing their battery after troubleshooting, whether that be with salt water or a couple potatoes.
Overall, my students really enjoyed setting up their potato battery experiments! There is a lot of opportunity for them to iterate and continue exploration through using different mediums besides the salt water or a potato. I would highly suggest this kit to anyone, educator or parent. "