‘The teaching of the future’

© 2017-Siuslaw News

Students explore STEM with demonstrations, hands-on exhibits at Science Night

Siuslaw School District had an impressive turnout for last Wednesday’s Science Night at Siuslaw Elementary School. Dozens of parents, students and teachers attended the evening activities that highlighted and explained different aspects of the natural and man made world.

Siuslaw Elementary Principal Mike Harklerode, said the turnout for “Science Night” was very good and the energy among the participants was high.

“It was a huge success. More than 300 people attended. Kids of all ages were thoroughly engaged in the activities in the gym,” he said. “Student projects were on display in another part of the building for parents to see how different elements of science inquiry and engineering come together.” 

Science Night was a combination of exhibition and participation as some students presented science projects and all had the opportunity for hands on fun in the scientifically retrofitted school gymnasium.

Siuslaw School District’s emphasis on the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in the education of students  is one of the main reasons for Science Night.

Benjamin Wells, STEM coordinator for the elementary school, sees the evening as another step in an ongoing effort by the district.

“This is a STEM event, which is super important because it is something that we have been working on bringing more into our schools for about 10 years now,” Wells said. “We’ve been following the next generation science standards and lesson plans and we are trying to implement them more and more. It is the teaching of the future and we are onboard with that.”

The importance of the STEM curriculum, and the many pluses that it brings to local students, is echoed by District Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak.

“STEM is a focus for us and many other districts because it incorporates multiple disciplines in projects. Students see the connections between math and science in the applications of engineering and technology,” Grzeskowiak said. “STEM projects help students round out a comprehensive learning activity which includes communication, critical thinking and presentation skills.”

One of the more interesting aspects of the evening was the genuinely good time that adults and students seemed to be having.

The gym was filled with long tables. Several types of STEM related puzzles, examples and demonstrations were placed end to end and next to each other to encourage students and parents to actually pick up and hold the materials or experiments.

“This is the fun stuff. Learning how things work, how parts fit together and how to solve challenges and puzzles are all very important to development,” said Harklerode. “However, they are very difficult for us to fit into a packed curriculum and nights like this allow us to capitalize on a kid’s sense of wonder.”

STEM curriculum is important, but the money to pay for this type of event comes from an endangered federal grant program.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant is the source of funding for all district after school programs for the past nine years.

Unfortunately, the current administration has proposed eliminating all federal funding for after school programs to the tune of 1.2 billion dollars.

This money currently supports after school learning assistance, evening meal programs for students in need and events like last weeks Science Night.

The cuts to after school learning programs are just part of the administration’s proposed reductions to the budget for the Department of Education, which, if enacted, would total more than 9 billion dollars less for next year. 

Lisa Utz, special programs director for the district, is concerned with the proposed reductions and hopes the funding for this type of event can be replaced if the current proposed budget reductions to the Department of Education are passed.

“This program only has one more year of grant funding, it is funded by a 21st Century grant for after school programs. They provided the funds to bring the STEM trailer to the gym, which has all the interactive activities in it,” Utz said. “A lot of people have probably heard of  this grant because of the executive order to cut them. So we are trying to lobby for their continued funding, so we can continue our after school programs and events like Science Night.”

On a related note, Siuslaw Middle School will be having a STE(A)M Fair during Rhody Days, with the addition of “Art.”  The fair will be setup in the gym and open to the public from 11 a.m. to  3 p.m.

There will be hands-on activities for people to engage in while they tour the student project displays. 

There will also be prizes for those who complete all of the activities.

acting with Children’s Repertory of Oregon Workshops, playing with Siuslaw Youth Soccer Association and being involved with Scouts and additional sports and programs, Coast Guard members and their families are vital community members.

“During the parade, it’s good to show who we are — that we’re out here,” Tregoning said.

Station Siuslaw River opened in 1917, with the first officer in charge reporting that December. Over the years, it has protected the Siuslaw River bar as a U.S. Lifesaving Service, as an outpost and as a full station.

The station’s current buildings were built in the 1970s. Tregoning plans to hold an open house at the station sometime later this year.

Tregoning said Rhody Days kicks off summer activities for Station Siuslaw River.

“Now that Rhody Days is here, and now that halibut openers are happening, we’re in summer mode,” Tregoning said. “We’re going to get more involved in the public affairs side.”

A full summer includes safe boating classes; interagency training with area EMTs, police and hospitals; the Law Enforcement Torch Run; and increased training.

“We’re trying to promote the interagency support,” Tregoning said.

This includes working with Lane County Sheriff’s office to  learn area lakes better to help prevent the loss of summer recreationists.

For Tregoning, Rhody Days starts a summer of fun with his wife, Amy, and their children Jon and Berkley.

“Every year I participate in the motorcycle run and the kids love the carnival. I like going out and checking the car show. I only get to see one aspect of the parade, but it is definitely worthwhile,” he said. “The recognition for the Coast Guard is overwhelming when we go through the parade.”

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