Osmon Best (center), a student at Thomas Johnson Middle School, shows instructor Richard Rubino how he plans to kick a paper football during STEM activities at the Howard B. Owens Science Center in Lanham, Maryland, on Oct. 10. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Osmon Best (center), a student at Thomas Johnson Middle School, shows instructor Richard Rubino how he plans to kick a paper football during STEM activities at the Howard B. Owens Science Center in Lanham, Maryland, on Oct. 10. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Osmon Best carefully looked at the eight steps to make a paper football.

After successfully crafting the football, the 12-year-old Thomas Johnson Middle School student stood it on a makeshift Washington Redskins table and plucked it to the other side. Touchdown!

Best and 39 other students from Thomas Johnson and Oxon Hill Middle School participated in various STEM projects at the Howard B. Owens Science Center on Oct. 10.

“I made a touchdown, but missed a field goal,” Osmon said while smiling at the engineering station.

Students from Oxon Hill and Thomas Johnson middle schools attempt to open a box with a few locks during STEM activities at the Howard B. Owens Science Center in Lanham, Maryland, on Oct. 10. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade participants, decked out in blue “Pepco STEM All-Stars” T-shirts, were recognized for their academic achievements. The schools they attend are recognized as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) buildings.

The students from Thomas Johnson in Lanham would matriculate to DuVal High School, which has an aviation program. The Oxon Hill students would feed into Oxon Hill High School and can enroll in its science and technology program.

“This is intentional,” said Monica Goldson, interim CEO for the county schools system. “We hope at sometime during this three-year experience that something has grasped them to give them the courage they need to say, ‘I can do that, too.’”

During Wednesday’s event, students dispersed to four STEM stations, which all focused on a football concept.

At the mathematics station, Thuy Pham, 12, answered three questions based on a touchdown equaling seven points, a field goal equaling three points and a safety at two points.

One of the questions: If a quarterback completed 80 percent of the 35 passes he threw in the past three games, how many did he miss? The answer: seven.

“This was fun. I want to be a math teacher,” said Thuy, a seventh-grade student at Thomas Johnson. “My parents used to be math teachers, so it’s kind of a generational thing.”

The fourth station focused on technology where students had 90 seconds to review and determine whether former Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson made a catch in a December 2016 game against the Carolina Panthers.

Murdoc Smith, 14, said, “He was in. He caught it.” After further review, the referees ruled Jackson caught the ball while sliding out of bounds.

“I am just enjoying this,” said the eighth-grade student, who attends Oxon Hill. “I like the arguments [to discuss the video because] it makes it more interesting. You hear other perspectives.”

The climax of the day came when students worked together on a few combination locks to open black boxes.

Goldson led a countdown to open the boxes, which were filled with clues to let the students know they would attend the Washington Redskins game at FedEx Field in Landover against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 14. She said tickets will also be provided for the student’s parents, courtesy of the Redskins and Pepco.

“Oh, yeah!” one student yelled from across the room.

Traketa Wray, instructional supervisor and program administrator at the science center, called it a “blessing” to see students excited about science.

“When the children come into this place, they leave smiling,” she said as students walked past her to their buses chatting about the various activities and football tickets.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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