OH WOW! It’s science time

Volunteers creating STEM SAKs. Photo by Samantha Smith / The Jambar

By Samantha Smith

Youngstown’s OH WOW! the Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology, is a nonprofit organization that teaches children about science while having fun.

OH WOW! partners with Youngstown State University for volunteer opportunities at the center to help with production of its science, technology, engineering and mathematics science activity kits. Colleen Ruby, the director of visitor services at OH WOW!, explained what STEM SAKs are.

“A STEM SAK is basically a self-contained science activity kit. It has lesson plans, it has a QR code that links to a video on how to complete the activity,” Ruby said. “They range anywhere from something that a preschooler or a kindergartner can do up to a seventh, eighth grader or even sometimes a high schooler. They are all related to science standards.”

The organization uses the STEM SAKs to teach and reinforce what children are learning in school, Ruby said. The STEM SAK contains everything the certain activity requires. 

OH WOW! uses the STEM SAKs at the center for when children come for a field trip and birthday parties or when the organization goes to after-school and outreach programs. The organization also has a monthly subscription box that includes STEM SAKs.

Ruby said the organization will sometimes produce thousands of  STEM SAKS a month and the volunteers help with the production. She said many who volunteer are from YSU’s Sokolov Honors College.

Lexi Rager, the assistant director of the Sokolov Honors College, said OH WOW! and the college have been in a partnership for some time. 

“In years past, we’ve had something called a community fellow with OH WOW!,” Rager said. “So they were an undergraduate student who helped us liaise with OH WOW! and help with anything they needed for volunteers.” 

Jeffie Cruz, the production manager at OH WOW!, said there is plenty for students to do when it comes to volunteering.

“Typically what I do is I involve [the volunteers] as much as I can. I try to have them create the STEM SAKs with me,” Cruz said. “I get them involved in putting all of the items in the bag, so it’s a lot of counting. I try to throw in something fun, I try to let them do the STEM SAKs also because they’re really cool.”

Cruz said she hopes students understand what they are doing when they help the organization.

“I hope that [students] see the value in what we’re doing. It is all STEM based curriculums with our STEM SAKS and any little bit of help is so much appreciated,” Cruz said. “I’m only one person and could I do 1,000 orders, yes. Is it time consuming, 100%. So, the more hands the merrier and ultimately it’s just going to help the children.”
Students can volunteer by either registering through OH WOW!’s website or visiting the center’s front desk. For more information about OH WOW! visit its website.