Beauty queen and friend encourage STEM learning at LaBrae elementary school

Children at Bascom Elementary School sang along with Miss Ohio 2014 Mackenzie Bart and her puppet Roxy during their visit to the LaBrae school to encourage STEM learning Thursday afternoon.

Uncontainable giggling accompanied her ventriloquism act.

“I can’t help it, she’s just so funny!” one second grader burst out.

Beyond garnering laughs, Bart, 22, said she wants to motivate the children to follow their curiosity into the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

“If you study with hard work, you can do anything; you could save someone’s life,” she said.

Bart said her passion for STEM began at a young age when her sister was born without the ability to produce cholesterol. Going to medical appointments with her sister made Bart want to be able to help, so she would read science books at the library.

Now she is a proponent of increasing newborn illness screenings – her sister’s illness isn’t tested for infants currently, she said. With this platform, Bart made it into the top 10 round of the Miss America pageant.

Principal Walter Carpenter said STEM was non-existent when he started as an educator 35 years ago.

“If it was there it was talked about quietly. It was all about the three R’s then – reading writing and arithmetic,” he said.

But education has drastically changed. Now every student in the K-2 school takes a technology class everyday. Even the kindergartners use iPads to learn letter recognition and hand writing – though cursive is off the budget. Everything is in block letters nowadays, Carpenter said.

Bart’s visit was arranged by first-grade teacher Jenna DePizzo who competed with Bart in the Miss Ohio Scholarship Pageant in July. Carpenter said the encouragement was important for the children.

“It’s very important. She’s willing to give her time to talk about education with the students,” Carpenter.

Bart has one year of studying atmospheric science left at The Ohio State University and hopes to become a broadcast meteorologist and to host an educational children’s weather program with Roxy.

mthompson@tribtoday.com