Parents are raising money to push tech and science integration in the school.

Several Cornelius Elementary School parents and staff members are working to start a new club they believe will introduce and expand career opportunities for students from a young age.

Many schools have made focusing on science, technology, engineering and math — known as STEM learning — a major priority, and the field is seen as a growing trend in schools across the state. But Alisa Waibel, a Cornelius parent, felt her daughter wasn't getting enough exposure to these subjects, and she wanted to introduce the concepts to students in a fun way.

Waibel is currently fundraising for a weekly before-school STEM club, which she hopes to launch by the start of the 2018-19 school year.

"One of the strengths of (the school) is their strong focus on literacy (with the) bilingual education program, but in my opinion as a parent, it's important to keep that fuel for STEM subjects too," said Waibel, whose daughter attends kindergarten at the school. "They spend so much time focusing on their language development, and they have math and they have science, but I thought (it would be good) just to have some fun ways to play with the (STEM) toys."

Waibel has gotten the approval from both the Forest Grove School District and Cornelius Elementary's principal, Angella Graves, to start the club.

"She really wants to have more of a STEM focus, which we love," Graves said. "We do STEM here ... but there's only so much time in the day in which you can teach science when you also have to teach reading and math, social studies, (physical education) and music, library and counseling."

Graves said it will be a good opportunity for students, giving them more options to participate in.

"They'll be doing fun projects that we don't have time to do during the school day, like coding or making robots or designing a huge science fair project," she said. "It will be great, and it will give the kids one more opportunity for extracurricular (activies). We have lots of extracurriculars at our school, but most of it is after school."

The STEM club will be open to students in kindergarten through fourth grade and aims to start with a cap of 40 students at first, Waibel said.

"It would be basically to help these kids to be STEM leaders in their current classrooms, and as they get up to middle and high school to have had that experience already," Waibel said. "The club will provide students with consistent STEM education in a fun, playful way, while giving them the opportunity to connect with STEM mentors."

Waibel hopes employees at local tech companies, such as Intel, will volunteer to work with the club.

There will be different STEM "toys" and stations, including a circuit station, robotics and coding, math games, engineering, life sciences and a creation station, Waibel said.

Waibel said the club will also be a good opportunity to get more girls involved in studying science.

"There's such a shortage of girls in STEM fields," she said. "If we can get both boys and girls, and they're playing together, that it will help them to feel on more of an even playing field," she said.

The STEM club will be free for students, but administrators of the club will need to gather about $4,000 to purchase equipment, Waibel said.

Waibel is hosting an online fundraiser through the campaign website GoFundMe to raise money for the project.

Donations can be made online at, or at the school, Waibel said. Those who donate will have their name written on a banner in the school, Waibel said.

By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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