"Activities like these are important because they break up the routine of school. Fun and variety are important in maintaining student engagement with education," she says.
Some students are exploring erosion protection at a water table, while others learn about the radioactive properties of everyday items including bananas. Another group is trying out shape memory alloys - metals that can be deformed and then return to their original shape when heated.
This was the scene Aug. 29 and 30 as the Laboratory brought the Challenge Tomorrow traveling STEM trailers to Pojoaque. Around 325 students from grades six through eight got to experience cutting-edge science with help from 43 volunteer Laboratory employees (known as Challenge Ambassadors).
No permission slips required
"The fact that these events can come to us cuts out a lot of the planning and transportation costs required for a field trip, making them an easy addition," says Loomis. "For one thing, it's easier to get participation secured when we don't have to worry about students getting permission slips filled out."
"Students get to explore real-world applications of the things they are learning, making the field of science less of an abstract concept and more of a reality that affects their daily lives, and one they may someday directly participate in," she continues.
Since their launch last year, the Challenge Tomorrow trailers have proved very successful in bringing science education to the community, and highlighting the range of job opportunities that exist at the Laboratory.
"The volunteers were really into it," observes Loomis. "You could see that they got people who were excited about their fields and had a certain delight in showing it to the kids."