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Students learn STEM at Saco amusement park

Funtown/Splashtown USA hosts science outreach program to give students a hands-on lesson.

SACO, Maine — For the past two days, high school and middle school students from across the state have used an amusement park to apply what they've learned about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Known more colloquially as STEM, teachers have turned toward an unconventional approach to help future scientists explore their fields in a more tangible form.

For the past two years, Funtown/Splashtown USA, an amusement park located in Saco, has used its attractions to help teachers in that goal.

Ed Hodgdon, marketing director of Funtown, says this program actually began long ago and has adapted to current teaching standards.

"This originated from our original physics day program that we started 25 years ago," Hodgdon said, "and as learning standards have changed and concepts have changed in the classroom we’ve adapted our program to be to mirror what is being taught in the classroom."

"Maybe they’ll look at things differently now I question how does that work in a lot of machines do work for us," says Evan Thayer, a physics teacher at Cape Elizabeth High School. "These are machines for amusement but there’s obviously a lot of carryover there."

"We’ve been studying centripetal force so it was really cool to go on all the circular rides and feel it yourself," says Biddeford high school junior Maggie Dallaire. "Sometimes we do experiments in class where will spin or teach ourselves what angular acceleration but it’s really cool to come here and see it in day to day life as well."

Regardless of how any of the estimated 2,500 students the park have hosted over the past two days have experienced, Hodgdon hopes that these lessons will stick with some of them and lead to careers in STEM.

"Maybe seeing that this is not just boring but it’s actually really fun and maybe it’s spark some interest into taking this towards a career path."