Children excited about education is a wonderful thing. And when an organization steps up to fever students’ interest in learning, it is doing something great. It is starting a lifetime of learning.

Seventh-graders from throughout Wayne County met Thursday at the Maxwell Center for the third annual STEM Fair, which was the project of the Wayne Education Network, an offshoot of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.

After three years of sponsoring the event, the Chamber deserves a heartfelt and public thank you. What is being done with activities such as the STEM fair — STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math — is not only to interest students in sciences and technology but develop in them the desire to learn. That desire is the driving force to a successful life. An elderly man I worked with when I was 17 told me that learning takes a lifetime. He had read hundreds of books and still wasn’t done learning. Entertainer Eartha Kitt offered an amusing view of a lifetime of learning: “I am learning all the time. My tombstone will be my diploma.”

So, when reporter Phyllis Moore quoted a young lady, Bella Franklin, a fourth-grader at Spring Creek Middle School, it was easy to see the dawn of a lifetime of learning. Bella is more into the arts than the sciences, wanting to be an actress or a dance or art teacher. But the STEM-related options at the fair had an impact on what will become Bella’s lifetime of learning: “I feel like I just get to create everything that’s in my mind.”

How does a person start a lifetime of learning? Just do it. Get started at any stage of life, the younger the better. But if you find yourself in your mid-40s and haven’t read a book since you were assigned George Orwell’s “1984” as a high school junior, it’s still not too late to start.

Blogger Tsh Oxenreider lists on her “Art of Simple” website “8 ways to pursue a lifetime of learning.” As the site promotes, it is simple to get started on a path of a lifetime of learning. Oxenreider’s steps: read, read quality material, watch quality TV, hang out with learners, keep up with the news, make lists, say “I don’t know” to your kids and discover the answer together, and try something new every day.

It all starts with reading. Like the old commercial told children every Saturday morning, “reading is fundamental.” Actually, reading is the golden key that unlocks the door to learning. People should get in the habit of reading right away. It can start with reading to your children, if they are still young, setting a goal of one book chapter a day or even grabbing five minutes to read something. Just get started. Once a habit develops, a lifetime of learning begins.

As you develop those reading muscles, start looking for things to read that are challenging. Cheesy romance novels and the old “dime-store paperbacks” are fun, but they do little to give the brain muscular definition. Check out the library rather than just reading anything you can get in your hands. A trip to the library to discuss your interests with staff can help lead you in a direction toward challenging works that stimulate your desire to learn.

A few weeks ago, in my introduction to readers, I admitted my love for TV. Those opposed to too much TV watching might become ill when they learn how often each day the television is on in my house. Even those who feel they watch way too much TV might also be aghast by the number of hours the set is powered up at home. But the key is carefully selecting what is watched and associating TV time with some form of research. You know what is being said about the Constitution on CNN is wrong? Well, pick up a copy of the Constitution to see just how crazy those folks are. Every other patient on your favorite medical drama is intubated? Check out intubations, what are they and why and how often emergency rooms do the procedure. Pairing mediums (television with simple research) gets the learning juices flowing, even faster than air flowing through an intubation tube. Before you know it, you won’t be able to sit down in front of the TV without your smartphone, tablet or favorite research material.

The reading and research go right along with keeping up with the news, making lists and researching simple answers with your kids.

The last point is to try something new. I cannot stress enough the importance of this point. Events, like the STEM fair the Chamber of Commerce hosted, are great opportunities to try something new and learn about new things. Some of the children at the STEM fair on Thursday saw the event as just another field trip. But for those whose imaginations and thoughts were sparked by something new they saw or touched, their lives will never be the same. They have started their lifetime of learning thanks to the Chamber of Commerce and Wayne Education Network.

Duke Conover is editor of the Goldsboro News-Argus. Email Duke at dconover@newsargus.com or call him at 252-676-6813.