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Midvale Journal

Families explore through engaging Midvale STEAM night activities

Dec 01, 2023 12:19PM ● By Julie Slama

At Midvale Elementary’s STEAM night, students try the coding the dog to get the ball during the coding critters challenge. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Midvale fifth-grader Kaedyn Glad and his dad were coding a robotic dog to get to a ball at the coding critters challenge.

“This is a chance to get out with my son and spend time with him, doing something in a learning environment together,” said Kaedyn’s dad, Andrew. “I’m always at work, but tonight it gives us a chance to do something fun.”

The two were at Midvale Elementary’s STEAM night where students and their families could try a dozen challenges as they rotated through the building. Once they filled a bingo or coloring sheet, they could receive a math kit to take home. 

Kaedyn wanted to come to STEAM night since he already learned how to make a bridge out of popsicle sticks at school and “wanted to have fun with my dad.”

Kindergarten teacher Mary Haymore was overseeing the station.

“It’s important that they’re learning how to do some basic coding for their future; it’s teaching them critical thinking skills,” she said. “It’s awesome we have this opportunity. The kids are engaged and enjoying what they’re doing.”

At another station, parent Jesica Bennett was watching her three children explore snap circuits.

“This is pretty amazing,” she said. “I like that they’re learning and not just on a screen. It’s conducive learning for all ages.”

She said two of her children like to engage in experiments at home and want to start an engineering business in their future.

“I like to make stuff,” her second-grader said. “I can help people and make things better as an engineer.”

Throughout the school were other stations with activities ranging from tangrams and magnets to a marble run and Hot Wheels racetrack. There was a chance for students to be innovative with Keva contraptions, problem-solve with Tetris puzzles and be creative with xylophones.

Ten volunteers from Reliable Controls in Millcreek came to staff the stations along with teachers and staff.

School nurse Tara Aka volunteered her time to help at the event.

“I love how they instill a love of learning in science, engineering, math and art,” she said. “It gets them excited, and they want to share what they’re learning.”

Kindergarten teacher Melissa Bryner asked students to make predictions as part of the scientific process before they tried the magnet racetrack challenge.

“In kindergarten science, we talk about predictions,” she said. “When we’re talking about the weather, I ask them what they think the weather will be like and why, so they learn to support their predictions. Here, I wanted them to make an educated guess how many paper plates we could put between the car and the magnet. When I work with kindergartners, I ask them one million questions to get their brains going and exploring, but with older kids, they got excited thinking about the different kinds of forces.”

Midvale School Community Facilitator Heidi Sanger said she reached out to the district ‘s Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist Chandra Martz for the night’s activities.

“I like how engaging it is for our students and the quality of interaction was better because our parents were able to engage with their kids in each of the activities; and how each activity connects to their academic core standards,” Sanger said, adding how instructions are available in both English and Spanish, which was helpful at the dual immersion school. “There also are some daily problem-solving activities they can do at home.”

Martz created the STEAM kits for schools to use with a portion of a grant she received from the Utah STEM Action Center.“We included the activities they can do at home so they learn STEAM is anywhere as they can as long as they’re asking the right questions,” she said. “STEAM can be implemented into pretty much any activity. “

Martz hopes students and parents realize the potential in the field.

“I want as many kids as possible to be able to see STEAM in their future. I want girls to be able to see that they can be engineers. I want children of color to see that they can get a job in the field that pays well. I feel a lot of people in some of our Canyons communities are working three jobs just to try to make ends meet. There are careers that their children can enter, and they can make $100,000 out of high school. I just want them to be able to see that this could be their future,” she said.

Martz said this is in line with the school district’s motto: “Every student who attends Canyons School District will graduate college-and-career ready.”

“That’s what we’re doing with STEAM, AI (artificial intelligence), technology – it’s the way of the future,” she said. “We’re giving them problem solving skills and skills in critical thinking, so when they graduate, they are college and career ready.” λ