STEM Zone brings the "science" of golf to life for toddlers

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - What do math and science have to do with the game of golf? A lot, if you ask the director of Chevron's Strategic Partnerships, Glenn Weckerlin.

"It's a little bit of a traveling road show for us, but we're kind of excited to have it here."

Weckerlin is referring to what's called the "STEM Zone," an interactive exhibit sponsored by Chevron Company that travels the country, inspiring young minds to learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

As Alan Sudduth with Chevron explains, "One of Chevron's ways to increase awareness and interest in STEM-related areas, is to have the STEM Zone . . . where it gives the chance for kids to have the hands on experience with these kinds of concepts, but makes it fun. Relates it to sporting events, like in this case, golf."

The STEM Zone has traveled with PGA tours, the US Open, and most recently the Super Bowl in New Orleans. But this is the first time it's been a part of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak.

"We take them through some of the things, we teach them here, around the science of golf," says Weckerlin. "And we use science as sort of a catch-all; it's a nice simple, easy way for them to see what goes on."

And this particular STEM zone is especially unique, because it's partnering with Excel by 5, catering to children birth to age five.

Weckerlin says, "This is the first time we've done that. We've really focused on K through 12, for the most part. So this is really exciting for us because we're really catching the kids up to that age. You know, you really have to look at education as a pipeline. And you know, everything that the Excel by 5 program stands for, if you don't do that properly, then you have to lower your expectations for K through 12."

Chevron leaders agree, you can never start too early in getting kids interested in math and science. At the STEM Zone, pre-schoolers can learn about science in a book nook, use sorting games to practice counting, and on the putting green learn about acceleration, as they aim for a hole in one.

"Chevron Pascagoula refinery has a big emphasis on early childhood education," says Sudduth. "So when we talked about bringing the STEM Zone here to the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, we said hey, let's add that early childhood education component to it. So we're the test case. We're going to see how well it works here, and hopefully it will spur some interest so we can add that component to our STEM Zones when they go throughout the country."

Like the tournament, the STEM Zone is free for children. You'll find it near the clubhouse at Fallen Oak. It will be hosting students from various schools and daycares Thursday and Friday.

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