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Barton Community College hosts “STEM Buddies” mentor program
Barton student Keely Wolf (Middle) plays a STEM-based game with a group of Ellinwood Grade School Students at a STEM Buddies session during the spring semester. The program was sponsored by the Barton Community College STEM Club and the Fort Hays State University Noyce Grant.

Nine Barton Community College students have spent the last semester working with students at Ellinwood Grade School (EGS) as part of the new after-school “STEM Buddies” program, which includes various activities, games, and of course, snacks.

The STEM Buddies program met right after school three times a week over the course of ten weeks at (EGS). Sixteen Ellinwood students in grades third through sixth were partnered with Barton students to complete activities and games focused on the development of math skills. Biology instructor Charlotte Cates said the program is mutually beneficial for all involved.

“STEM Buddies is providing life experiences and skill development for both groups,” she said. “The elementary students are developing math skills, critical thinking skills, and positive experiences with young role models who support learning and a love of math, while the Barton students are developing classroom management skills, math-education skills, and can learn about their roles and abilities in a child’s education. Many of these Barton students have expressed an interest in teaching within the STEM field. This first-hand experience allows them to make informed decisions about their career path and allows them to list that experience on scholarship, school, and future job applications.”

Barton Student Keely Wolf said the program has helped her gain valuable experience because she aspirations to be a grade school teacher.

“I think this program benefits the kids because they’re not sitting in the same room as they have been the past eight hours, and it allows them to work with others that aren’t in their class,” she said. “They also love talking so it’s a good way to get them to interact socially and to get away from technology for a bit. Although these kids can sometimes stress me out, I absolutely love going over there and helping them. They not only learn, but it feels like they look up to me in a way. They ask a million questions about how my childhood was, and they even ask for advice sometimes on what they should do in a certain situation. I guess it just makes me feel important.”

Ellinwood Grade School (EGS) Principal Joel Kahnt said the program has been a positive experience for the students and the school.

“We are so excited that we were able to partner with Barton,” he said. “We appreciate the leadership the Barton students and sponsors have given our kids and EGS. STEM is an important part of education today, and giving our students an experience outside of the classroom has been fantastic.”

Executive Director of Foundational Education Stephanie Joiner said community support is at the core of the College’s mission.

“The mission reads, ‘Barton offers exceptional and affordable learning opportunities supporting student, community, and employee needs,’” she said. “Ellinwood is a community partner. Their students become our students. The short-term gains for community support can be seen in the positive response of the Ellinwood grade schoolers as they are participating in STEM Buddies, and the potential long-term gains will be realized as those students continue to pursue an education and career in the STEM field. Their educational path can begin right here at Barton, in their community. Additionally, I live in Ellinwood. I know these kids, and I know their families. My kids enjoy the benefits of EGS. I want to see Ellinwood schools and students flourish as much as I want to see Barton recognized for the quality education it provides.”

For more information, contact Joiner atjoiners@bartonccc.eduor (620)792-9238.