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Midvale Journal

Midvalley students discover the wonders of science and technology

Mar 01, 2024 12:55PM ● By Julie Slama

Preschool and elementary school students were amazed and excited by the variety of activities at Midvalley Elementary’s recent STEAM night. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

“I want to do all activities here.”

First-grader Amelia Smith was excited to see Midvalley Elementary’s STEAM night. Her dad, Brady, was by her side.

“I hope she can see and enjoy all the different disciplines of science and math and all these cool things,” he said. “We absolutely love doing these things at home. We build a lot of LEGOs. Here, we can stretch her mind in different ways. I just want her to have a mind that solves problems and thinks through things. I want her to be able to create and have that skill set that goes along with all these STEAM activities.”

That’s the goal behind STEAM night, said Canyons School District’s Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist Chandra Martz, who created the STEAM kits for schools to use with a portion of a grant she received from the Utah STEM Action Center.

The kits come with dozens of challenges as students rotated through the gym. They learned to ask questions, analyze data, investigate and recognize similarities and patterns. They could develop and test solutions and explore learning using tools—or in many cases, fun learning tools such as coding a robotic dog or exploring snap circuits.

“We included the activities they can do at home so they learn STEAM is anywhere,” she said. “As long as they’re asking the right questions, STEAM can be implemented into pretty much any activity.”

Some of those questions may be “how can you break down the problem to make it easier to solve” or “what resources can you use to solve the problem.” Afterward, Martz said parents could ask students to explain what they did to solve the challenge and if the results make sense.

At each of the stations, teachers and volunteers were modeling that, allowing students to figure out the tasks at hand.

Third-grade teacher Emily Walker was observing students who were “productively struggling. I’m letting them try to figure it out and direct them with guided questions. They get excited about what happens. With this snap circuit station, they build a machine and then, the propeller takes off and flies. It’s really cool. I’m hoping that they start to understand how the pieces connecting this makes a machine and how they work together to make something happen.”

It ties in her class curriculum of studying forces in motion.

“It’s pretty applicable and it’s fun. We do a lot of experiments in class in science. We just did a forces in motion experiment where we used pieces of cardboard little toy cars to see how fast they go down the ramp, depending on the steepness of the ramp. They learned a bit of the scientific method by predicting how fast they’d go and collecting data and determining why or why not the cars went as fast as they thought they would,” she said. “This night just has a lot of opportunities for students and their families.”

At each station, Martz provided how the activities connected to academic core standards in both English and Spanish, which was helpful for the dual immersion school.

Kim Coller brought her granddaughter, Bella, a kindergartner, to STEAM night.

“It’s a good learning experience for my granddaughter; she loves activities like this, and I get to spend time with her at her school,” Coller said. “She’s a busy kid; she likes to do everything. She’s already built a car ramp to test how fast and how far they can go, now she likes putting together K’NEX and spinning them.”

Nearby, Addie Parkin was at another station. She is a preschooler who loves to play chef and paint fingernails.

“Last time, she told me she wanted to either be a nail tech or bake and sell pizza at the beach, or maybe be a scientist so she can figure out things,” said her mother, Angela. “Addie loves putting things together; she’s great at puzzles. She’s tried the marble run and the Hot Wheels. She’s loving this tonight. We don’t have nearly the space at home, but we do go to Grandpa’s and do some activities where she can explore and create. With the sheet they’ve provided, we’ll be doing some more.”

That likely would be something Martz hopes to hear more often.

“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