Students explored science applications through activities at STEM Education Day. Photos by Keri Rouse for Virginia Tech.
Woman holding up a test tube to look at.
Students explored science applications through activities at STEM Education Day. Photos by Keri Rouse for Virginia Tech.

The importance of science and mathematics in our world was on full display at the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center during its inaugural STEM Education Day on April 27th. The event, held on the parking deck of the center's new facility, offered eighth-grade students from Hunter B. Andrews PreK-8 School exposure to a range of STEM topics, including aquaculture, engineering, environmental stewardship, economics, food safety, and sustainable agriculture. As students cycled through stations with hands-on activities, they had the chance to meet researchers and experts who offered insights into the practical applications of STEM fields. 

Partner organizations, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Virginia State University, Hampton University, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, played a vital role in the success of the event. They provided engaging displays and activities that brought STEM topics to life, such as touch tanks filled with horseshoe crabs and oysters, an engineering activity challenging students to reduce bycatch, a display of an aquaponics system, and other exhibits.

The Virginia Seafood AREC's team organized interactive and educational activities related to the center's major program areas, which include aquaculture. Next to a tank of hybrid striped bass, students participated in a feed conversion ratio activity that demonstrated how much feed is required to produce different types of meat. One corner of the parking deck was bustling with the sounds of students calling out bids in a simulated auction, which served as a powerful illustration of the dynamic interplay between supply, demand, and prices in the marketplace. 

At another station, students could view and smell an array of edible insects and grains and could touch and feel samples of bioplastics made from renewable sources. Additional activities included a watershed model that showcased the negative impact of runoff on waterways and a food safety station where students could test their handwashing technique using a germ-simulating gel and black light.

People looking at a tank of fish with plants growing on top.
People reaching out to feel the surface of a bioplastics sample.
Students looking at a woman as she holds up a paper with directions.
Hybrid striped bass in a tank.
Woman holds up and shows underside of a horseshoe crab.
People smiling and raising arms during an auction simulation.
Students watching a woman holding up oysters over top of a tank filled with water.
Students looking at the underside of a horse shoe crab.