December 2016

December 2016 Newsletter

Hour of Code

Every year in December, people across the globe are learning more about the technology that underlies our daily lives. The movement is called Hour of Code and the challenge is to spend an hour learning how to code! One-hour coding experiences for students of all ages and levels of inexperience are available on the Hour of Code website, along with tutorials for leaders who want to host an event.

Rachel Luke at Irrigon Elementary School says hour of code is rapidly becoming “hours” of code! Word is spreading at her school because the coding activities are both engaging and fun. Students at Irrigon first experience coding while programming robots for the First LEGO League challenges. They are getting another opportunity through Hour of Code. She says “Not only does [coding] remove the mystery from the popular gaming environment, it has helped the students connect to and enrich current experiences.”

Lisa Foggia at La Grande Middle School has been holding an event with her students ever since Hour of Code began five years ago. She likes doing Hour of Code because it’s so engaging and students can move at their own pace. "It's a great avenue for practicing growth mindset as students will most likely get to a point of frustration" says Lisa, who has a wonderful bulletin board in her room describing The Power of Yet - see photo! She also feels the website offers a nice variety of coding activities that will interest many different students.

Carrie, the children’s librarian at the La Grande Public Library, has decided to take Hour of Code one step further and is starting a coding club in January. Beginning on January 3rd, youth ages 9-12 can participate in an 8-week Art-themed coding class where they will use Google CS First. Contact Carrie by calling 541-962-1339 if you would like to learn from her how to start a coding club.

If you feel like you missed out on Hour of Code this year, don’t fret! You can still do Hour of Code with your students or children at home. The resources are available on the Hour of Code website and can be used any time.

Academic Momentum through STEM

Since August, twenty fifth grade teachers from across the eastern region have participated in five days of professional development focused on integrating hands-on STEM instruction into their classrooms. Topics have included soils, data literacy and gravity with culminating engineering activities involving building hour glass timers and engineering soils to retain moisture. In addition to discussing and practicing these lessons, teachers were provided with the supplies needed to make the units actually happen with their students!

These teachers are involved in the STEM Systems program through GO-STEM and have been working hard since last summer to bring STEM into our elementary schools and to make learning meaningful, interactive and fun! According to participating teachers, the students are completely engaged in this type of investigative learning where they get to solve real-world problems. After implementing one of the lessons with her class at Dayville School, Carrie Sullivan said “The greatest challenge was to hold back, allow them to make mistakes and discover what those mistakes were...asking questions gave me insights into [my students’] motivation, how she thinks and what she thinks is important.”

By the end of the school year, this group of teachers will develop a STEM unit for fifth grade that is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Math to be shared out through the Eastern Promise Academic Momentum program. Look for this next school year along with other STEM units already available on the GO-STEM website under STEM Resources!

STEM in the Community

Grant County residents enjoyed a Family STEM Night at Humbolt Elementary School in Canyon City on November 17. Over 200 students and parents participated in the event with hands-on activities that included engineering pillars and penny supporting devices, science experiments, electrical wiring with LEDs and more!

Kristal Hansen organized the evening in connection with the Grant County OSU Extension Office and the STEM Beyond Schools Grant.  Student members of the Grant County 4H helped run each activity with the support of teacher volunteers.​ The event was a great success and plans are in the works to have similar events for students and their families across the region to promote hands-on STEM learning. Shanna Northway, the 4H faculty who leads the program, says "It was amazing to see how much fun the students had during the night and even more exciting to see that parents were engaged and learning right alongside their kids." Through the STEM Beyond Schools grant, Shanna's 4H team also has plans to bring their students to visit three Oregon colleges, tour local STEM industry, build and fly drones and do service-learning projects.

STEM Beyond Schools is a statewide grant supported through all of the Oregon STEM hubs including GO-STEM. There are six sites located throughout eastern Oregon who have received funds and professional development to increase STEM and student-driven learning in their after-school programs. These include the 4H after-school programs in Grant, Harney and Malheur counties plus Wallowa Resources WREN program and the Get Outside After School Activity Program in Union and Baker counties.