Students at Levey Middle School worked with Lawrence Technological University to learn about different STEM opportunities through the baking of a cake. Levey and the LTU STEM Center have teamed up in an effort to teach students the importance of science in everyday life.

Students at Levey Middle School worked with Lawrence Technological University to learn about different STEM opportunities through the baking of a cake. Levey and the LTU STEM Center have teamed up in an effort to teach students the importance of science in everyday life.

Photo by Jacob Herbert


LTU outreach effort teaches Levey students about STEM through baking cake

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published February 11, 2021

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SOUTHFIELD — Levey Middle School eighth grade teacher Chrisondra Austin has had a partnership with Lawrence Technological University for roughly three years now. Over those three years, the Lawrence Tech STEM Center has conducted experiments with the students at Levey in hopes of getting them interested in pursuing a degree in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The latest effort to do so came from an experiment whose goal was to teach students about the science of everyday life. Students were tasked with baking a cake while learning about the different chemical reactions that turn flour, eggs and ingredients into the cake.

The experiment was conducted virtually, and each student was in charge of baking their own cake or cupcakes, with or without frosting. Austin had her students make decisions about which recipes to follow and taught them about how different amounts of the different ingredients changed the results of the final product.

“I thought it was so great,” Austin said of the experiment. “It was cool that we were able to mix it and we’re talking about the different chemical reactions as we were mixing the ingredients. Then for us to be able to put them in the oven and decorate them, some of them made cupcakes with powdered sugar. It was one the best experiments I’ve had with the students.”

Austin said she felt her students understood the “why” of the experiment instead of just understanding the “how.” The students were able to grasp the real meaning of the experiment on top of just baking a cake.

Sibrina Collins, the executive director of the Lawrence Tech Marburger STEM Center, said she and Outreach Director Jaclyn Smith got the idea from an article titled practical science at home during the pandemic in the monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Chemistry. The article centers around providing resources to students to ensure learning can continue when access to schools is unavailable.

As for getting young students interested in STEM, Collins and Smith had the students complete a survey at the conclusion of the experiment. Survey results showed that 100% of the students were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the cake workshop. It also showed that 46.7% of students indicated that they would consider earning a degree from LTU.

“There’s a lot of research out there that shows that waiting until students are in high school is kind of too late to reach them,” Collins said. “If we want students to get interested in STEM, you have to go back earlier.”

Students often shy away from a degree in STEM due to the perceived difficulty of the material required to obtain one. Collins and Austin know that simply telling students to pursue a degree in STEM is not enough. Students should be learning how STEM shapes their everyday lives instead of simply just learning what it is.

“A lot of kids don’t like to go into the engineering, science and math fields,” Austin said. “In elementary school, your main focus is reading and math. So a lot of the time, science or anything that deals with engineering is put on the back burner because in elementary school, the teacher teaches everything. It’s good to start them in the STEM field early on.”

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