Each spring, Philadelphia hosts a week-long, city-wide science festival.  Events include lectures, dinners, tours, stargazing, trivia, pub crawls (for adults, of course), exhibits, and more. The festival is organized by The Franklin Institute, Philly’s science museum that is named after Benjamin Franklin. Each year, the festival culminates in a giant outdoor carnival, a free event for anyone to showcase how they “science”, and how STEM can take on so many different forms. It is a fantastic day for everyone to learn and explore.  Booths house everything from catapults, to computers, to cats, and are great for all ages.

NEED is lucky enough to take part in the carnival each year with our friends from The Franklin and PECO.  The PECO Energizing Education Program, hosts a booth each year, and NEED joins PEEP teachers in running the booth to share about the program. This year, the PEEP booth grew in size and in energy level as we welcomed some of the program’s star students to run our show.

PEEP began 8 years ago, and each year Northley Middle School students have continued to “wow” us with their energy education efforts and STEM project creations.  This year the program tasked each school with completing a STEM challenge – to build or design something to showcase what they’ve learned about energy.  Northley allows their students to pick a topic and challenge of their choice, but they must create something hands-on that works!  One of their very dedicated teachers, Ms. Deborah Blaisse, recognized that the students had put together some excellent projects this year, and that a few of them might be interested in showcasing their work at the carnival. We were so pleased to have 16 eighth graders join us for a day at the carnival…and on a Saturday no less.

The students brought their projects, which were actually very much like hands-on museum displays. The student demonstrations included Jacobs Ladders, a catapult, a working hydroelectric generator that powered lights, a generator model, a Van de Graaff generator, a pinball machine, and more. All were student built!  The students worked all day to explain their exhibit piece and how it related to energy. A few student projects were so well loved that the projects became broken from all the experimenting. These students did their best to fix and explain why they had broken and how to fix them. One student worked for an hour refurbishing his project, and telling anyone who was interested what he was up to. And they were interested!

Ms. Blaisse’s class certainly showcased their energy knowledge and exemplified that STEM learning and exploration can be fun, and it can be for everyone. A few of the students told us that science and math were never their favorite subjects, until they got the chance to explore in the way they did creating their Energy STEM challenge project.

Check out these amazing pictures and videos of Northley’s 8th graders. They learned a lot, but taught us even more! The students seemed to enjoy themselves, too. Here are just a few of their thoughts on the day:

“I had a great time at the festival, because I was able to teach others. Most parents were surprised at how well we knew our stuff!”  – Cody

“At the festival, I was asked several times what college our presentations were supposed to represent. I was impressed and proud of Northley’s hard work.”  – Madison

NEED, The Franklin Institute, and the PECO Energizing Education Program are so proud of Northley and our PEEP students. We hope to continue having student-led booth exhibits going forward, because kids teaching kids is what it’s all about. Ms. Blaisse truly inspired her students to do great things, and they rose to the challenge. What a wonderful group of students and a great day at the Carnival!