Cornelius STEM club a major success
Earlier this year, Cornelius Elementary School parent Alisa Waibel was fundraising to start a science, technology, engineering and math club at the elementary school after recognizing a shortage of opportunities to learn about STEM in an exciting way.
She and several others worked to spread the word about the club in order to raise enough money to buy the equipment needed, and reached out to volunteers from across the community.
The club would be offered before school Wednesday mornings, which is a late-start day, Waibel said, and would have a cap of about 40 students. But then, more than 125 kids signed up for the free program.
On Wednesday morning, Oct. 17, around 50 kids showed up to the STEM club, which will now be offered three times during the school year for 10 weeks per session to give each student who signed up a chance to participate.
Forest Grove School District Superintendent Dave Parker — who was a physics and chemistry teacher himself — stopped by the club Wednesday morning, impressed with the work being done at the school.
"This is the kind of creative problem-solving and critical thinking that we need to highlight in this district, and you give kids these kinds of tools — look at them, they haven't thought once about turning on a television," he said. "I always found science super-interesting, and these kids, when we start exposing them to some of the technology and the engineering that we have nowadays, it's just infectious. So this is awesome."
For the first seven weeks, students rotate weekly between the different learning stations, which include electronics, math and science board games, experimental science, robotics, building, coding and a creation station. Then, for the final three weeks, they can choose their favorite station and focus on that. More than 20 volunteers from across the community, including some from Intel, have stepped up to work with the kids.
On Wednesday morning, during the STEM club and into the school day, observers from the International Society for Technology in Education were on hand to check out both the club and how teachers at the school are using technology to engage students in learning on a daily basis, said principal Angella Graves.
"Our kids that we have now are all digital natives, so they are born with an iPhone in their hand," Graves joked. "They are really good at technology, and we also know they aren't going to be looking up things in books, necessarily — they are going to be doing their research online, so they need to be able to distinguish what's fact versus what's fiction online.
She added, "We need to engage students more, and they are more engaged if they are watching a video on (something) versus listening to the teacher say the same thing. ... It's student engagement, and it's also just teaching kids how to use technology appropriately."
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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