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Science Night at Wilton Manors Elementary was part fun, part future job training.

“It’s everything. It’s technology, it’s living things, it’s sound experiments . . . We’re preparing them for jobs [in science and technology] we don’t even know exist. It’s very cool,” said Lori Goldsmith, the school’s magnet program coordinator.

Held Jan. 25 at the school, Science Night featured hands-on science demonstrations about sonar, buoyancy, marine life, plankton, marine conservation and research, and other scientific principles. “You have to do the hands on. That’s how the kids construct their own knowledge,” Goldsmith said.

The scientific expertise was provided by Florida International University [FIU].

“In general, it’s to garner excitement for STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] related fields and get kids excited in math and science where they have a tangible example of what that means,” said Nick Ogle, education outreach program manager for FIU’s College of Arts Sciences and Education. The hope, he added, is that this is a part of what gets students interested in pursuing a STEM-related career.

School administrators funded FIU’s participation through a grant the school won for its environmental sustainability efforts – the P3 Eco-Challenge.

“The kids work really hard . . . above and beyond a normal school. We do [environmental sustainability] because it’s the right thing to do. But when someone recognizes us, it’s amazing,” said Principal Melissa Holtz. “We’re the first elementary school in the county to win [this award],” said Goldsmith.

Maria Schwartz, a first-grade teacher and the school’s science contact with FIU, said the students have put a lot of effort into making the school more environmentally-friendly.

Exotic plants have been removed and replaced with native vegetation, the butterfly garden has been renovated, students participated in a campaign to promote the use of sustainable materials, learned about climate change and sustainability issues, and more. “A lot of the grant prize came from getting the kids involved in local sourcing for food,” said Schwartz.