Every year, sixth-grade students from Ardmore Middle School head to Langston University for some hands-on STEM experience.
This year, 85 students attended the Ardmore Middle School STEM Extravaganza, making it the largest group that’s ever attended. A group of eighth graders attended the university’s science research institute as well, for a new program focusing on what it’s like to be part of a research team. AMS teacher Mary Johnson, who created the program with Langston, takes students on the trip every year.
“Ardmore Middle School is the only one in the state with this particular program,” Johnson said. “They didn’t just visit, they got to go to class.”
Kids got a look at the campus as they moved from a chemistry class with a lesson on the periodic table to a biology class, to math class, a computer technology class and a robotics lesson. At each stop, they participated in experiments, got to work with lab equipment and won prizes by asking questions.
“Every time I go I have a lot of fun, just seeing them having new experiences and thinking, ‘One day, I might want to do something like this,’” Johnson said. “They also find out that if they want to do certain activities or courses, you have to prepare yourself in middle school.”
They visited a radio and broadcast classroom and got the chance to film their own newscasts. Some students volunteered to be on TV, and others worked behind the scenes to film the broadcast and control the audio.
Eighth grader Braden Powell said the trip was a unique one for him.
“I wanted to go on the trip because I’ve never been on a college campus,” Powell said. “I thought it would be a cool experience, and it was.”
This year, Johnson took a second group of 15 eighth graders for a new program. This one focused more on research programs and what it’s like to participate in one.
“I wanted to prepare my eighth graders who were going into the ninth grade,” Johnson said. “It’s another arena of education.”
Eighth graders worked with medical technology and met with Langston students from abroad.  
Eighth grader Ta’nya Jones attended the first program when she was in sixth grade and attended the second trip this year.
“It was fun, it gave me new things to learn,” Jones said. “The first trip, we learned more about technology, in the second trip it was more about science and it was more hands-on.”
She said her personal favorite part was a lab where students looked at scans of cells on a computer, learning about how the shapes of cells help doctors make diagnoses.
“We actually got to do science stuff,” Jones said. “We got to use the tools they use.”
Johnson said the programs are both meant to tie core subjects to the more advanced ones and give students an idea of what they need to do to advance.
“I want them to see the importance of studying in middle school, that’s my whole purpose,” Johnson said. “Everything we do here is for a reason.”