Calvert Elementary Students Get Jump on College

Sociology Professor Debra Wyvill

CSM Hosts County Fifth Graders for ‘Awesome’ Day of Science

            “Hey, I have two left feet,” called out Ross Lester, a fifth-grader in Mary Butz’s class at Calvert Elementary.

            With all the commotion in the biology lab at the College of Southern Maryland’s Prince Frederick Campus, no one noticed. In fact, as most of the students were rushing around with armfuls of model skeleton parts, Lester’s pronouncement wasn’t out of the ordinary on this day.

            Along with students visiting the physics and computer labs, fifth-graders in the biology lab were enjoying a day exploring science and technology careers with a little help from CSM faculty and student volunteers.

            The Calvert Elementary “College Day 2016” field trip is part of Better Education Together, a partnership between CSM and Calvert County Public Schools aimed at generating interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers and post-secondary education. Future such field trips are planned with the goal to have every fifth-grader in Calvert County visit one of CSM’s campuses.

            The day started with a welcome from CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried. “College is for everyone,” he said. “The key is to be thinking, not just about graduating from high school, but beyond high school,” Gottfried added.

            Another welcome came from CSM Vice President and Dean of Prince Frederick Campus Charlene Cole-Newkirk: “This is your campus—we want you to think about coming here after high school.”

            In the computer lab, Professor of Information Technology Services Joe Burgin introduced students to the world of computer programming in his “Make Your Own Computer Game” session. Twenty students from Anne Piccoli’s class, each with their own workstation, started their day creating customized games similar to the 1970s table tennis computer game ‘Pong.’

            A further collaboration brought students from CSM’s teacher education programs to the campus to help the fifth-graders maneuver from class to class and guide them with their projects. The CSM student volunteers completed a 45-minute training session with Burgin the day before so they would be able to help the fifth-graders.

            Students selected from a wide range of subjects—marching elephants, basketballs, cheeseburgers, penguins—to make their games unique.

            “You will get a CD copy of your game to work on back at your school,” said Burgin to loud cheers from the class. He was a rock star.

            In the biology lab, Professors Melanie Osterhouse, Tom Poe and George Spiegel led students in a lab experiment called “Dead Man’s Tales” where students had to construct an entire human skeleton from a pile of bones and then determine through measurements and calculations if it belonged to a man or a woman.

            “Anything that the kids do that is hands-on, they remember,” said Butz. “These kids will remember this day years down the road,” she added.

            That is what organizers of the event are hoping.

            A month before, CSM Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Farinelli, Calvert Supervisor of Elementary Education, Science, JoAnn Roberts, Burgin, Poe, Spiegel and others brainstormed on how to provide the ‘Wow!’ factor to students to get them—and keep them—interested in STEM fields.

            In Physics Professor Richard Beers’ lab room the wow factor came in the form of hair-raising and mind-boggling feats of force, energy and motion.

When the day was over, Calvert Elementary students were still full of energy, jazzed by the events of the day, their brains overflowing with scientific knowledge, and hands filled with mementos of their experiences.

            With everyone assembled for closing remarks, Gottfried invited all the students to Kids College summer programs and Saturday Discovery classes held throughout the year.

Gottfried, Newkirk and Farinelli then invited each student to receive a certificate. “These certificates say that you are accepted as a student at CSM when you graduate from high school,” said Gottfried. “This is your ticket to college.”

When asked how he liked coming to the college, Tyler Simms from Piccoli’s class said, “This day was awesome!”

            Apparently, the “Wow!” factor worked.


            For information on CSM’s Kids’ and Teen College programs which include Saturday Discovery classes, visit

            Barstow Elementary fifth-graders are scheduled to attend College Day 2016 on Friday, Jan. 30.