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Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) play an important role in everyone’s lives. Madison Elementary School (Madison) teacher librarian, Laney Berry knows this well. As the creator of Madison’s makerspace, Berry has put a lot of research and effort into helping her students discover the importance of STEM in their own lives. “STEM is fun! It’s everywhere. It’s integral. I hope [students] consider it as part of their daily lives and possibly for a future career,” she shared.
While Berry feels that having a makerspace has helped Madison students make progress, she and others in her school know that all students throughout Muscatine can benefit from STEM experiences. To spread their progress and help more students embrace STEM, Madison hosted STEM Night for all students on Tuesday, April 9th.
To engage students of all ages in STEM learning, Berry partnered with community organizations to put together a variety of activities. To get some of Muscatine’s youngest students involved, Musser Public Library brought over their Big Blue Blocks for kids to use to engineer their own creations. For some scientific fun, students could visit Stanley Consultant’s static electricity table. For those looking for highly hands-on experiences, Berry opened Madison’s makerspace to all.
Finally, for those looking to tie science to literacy and other subject areas, the Iowa State Extension and Outreach Office lead three separate lessons that used picture books, hands-on activities, and group discussions to discover how wind affects different objects, how chemical reactions take place to pop popcorn, and how to affect the speed and direction of rolling objects. At the end of the night, each student who participated got a STEM themed book.
Throughout all the activities of the night, Berry hoped that everyone in the community felt the excitement of expanding STEM programming throughout Muscatine Community School District (MCSD). “We want STEM to be a big deal in the community,” she shared. She also hoped that it gave parents the opportunity to share this excitement with their children and to help keep STEM in the forefront of their minds moving forward.
From the parents and students gathered at Madison, one could already tell that Berry’s ideas had started to take root. Rakess Nair, who brought his daughter, Janaki Nair, a kindergartner at Colorado Elementary School, explained that he brought her because, “I work for Bayer and we also do STEM events. I know how important science and technology are. . .. She’s not old enough to go to [Bayer’s] events, but I thought this might be something she would love.”
Outside of Madison, other MCSD schools have begun offering more STEM education as well. This summer, Jefferson Elementary School will offer a STEM themed summer school program for the first time ever, and College for Kids (the middle school summer enrichment program) will offer more STEM themed classes than ever. With STEM education expanding throughout MCSD, Madison’s STEM Night and Berry’s goals for it mark the beginning of exciting new opportunities for all students.
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