by Jennifer Callahan, Kindergarten Teacher, Redmond Early Learning Center
My name is Jennifer Callahan. I teach kindergarten at the Redmond Early Learning Center (RELC) in Redmond, Oregon. RELC’s goal is to be a hub where children from birth through age six and their families can access the early learning and developmental opportunities and supports that enhance their ability to succeed. The center provides equitable access for children and families by offering a “one stop shop,” that is centrally located within our community. The center includes partners such as Head Start, Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE), Public Health, Healthy Beginnings and many other agencies. We have just started our third year with this model.
I attended the 2:15 PM Session “STEMtastic Elementary Family Events: Increase community engagement without losing your mind” with Kara Allan and Kama Almasi as part of the 2018 OSTA Conference in Newport, Oregon.
I serve on the leadership team at my school in charge of parent engagement events, the district science curriculum adoption community, the Oregon Science Project, and on the PreK-3rd Initiative High Desert Education Service District . I attended this workshop in the hopes that the information would help me to organize a STEM Night for the 400 kindergarteners and their families that attend the school where I teach. I strongly believe that parents and families play an important role in supporting their child's education. According to the National Education Association, when schools and families work together, children do better, stay in school longer, are more engaged with their school work, go to school more regularly, behave better, and have better social skills.
The workshop provided fun hands-on activities from the Oregon Coast STEM Hub using the “Family Engineering: An Activity & Event Planning Guide” and “Picture-Perfect Science Lessons: Using Children's Books to Guide Inquiry” books. These resources provide activities to engage elementary age kids and adults in exploring the exciting world of engineering together. One of my favorite activities was the “Learning From Failure” from Family Engineering. First, you create a boat out of one piece of aluminum foil and place it in a tub of water. Predict how many pennies you think the boat will hold before it fails and sinks. Next, place pennies in your boat gently, one-by-one. Watch the boat carefully as it gets close to sinking. Then, can you change your boat’s design to hold more pennies? Try again using the same foil or one new piece. Finally, what did you learn from watching your boat sink?
The workshop shared event planning resources and provided personal experience for organizing a successful Family Engineering event. I gained a variety of ideas, explored several lessons first hand, was given valuable tips to planning my own STEM night, and gained the confidence needed lead my own parent engagement event. Photo #1 was taken of myself with two colleagues (Lisa Jacobs & Kama Almasi ) participating in an engineering activity with pipe cleaners. Photo #2 was taken of myself during the workshop taking part in the “Learning From Failure” activity.
Currently I use Amplify science curriculum in my kindergarten class. In the past I have used the “Learn To Learn” Lego STEM lessons, my students have attended outdoor school for the day, taken part in a variety of agriculture lessons, engaged in simple investigations, gone on several field trips (snowshoeing, the fish hatchery, hiking in the forest, etc.), benefited from guest speakers from our community, and more. Next, I plan to provide more opportunity for my students to explore STEM lessons. I would love for them to do the lessons in class before the STEM night with parents. That way they can be the leaders / teachers and help lead the experiments at the event.The following article was written last spring featuring my class. https://hechingerreport.org/will-new-standards-improve-elementary-science-education/