Two former North Star students started an organization to bring free STEM activities to kids in-person and virtually. This is how it all started for me.
A few summers ago I read the book, “What School Could Be” by Ted Dintersmith and I was intrigued. As a school principal I was asking myself, “Am I doing everything I can to create the best environment for kids to learn. Is there anything else I can do to improve?” Well, when I read that Innovation expert, Ted Dintersmith took an unprecedented trip across America visiting all 50 states in a single year and he found What Made the Difference in Schools that outperformed all the others? I wanted to know what it was. He originally set out to raise awareness about the urgent need to reimagine education to prepare students for a world marked by innovation, but America’s teachers one-upped him? How?
All across the country, he met teachers in ordinary settings doing extraordinary things, creating innovative classrooms where children learn deeply and joyously as they gain purpose, agency, and real knowledge. Together, the new ways of teaching and learning offer a vision of what school could be and a model for transforming schools throughout the United States and beyond. Better yet, teachers and parents don’t have to wait for the revolution to come from above. You can readily implement small changes that can make a big difference starting today.
America’s clock is ticking. Our archaic model of education trains our kids for a world that no longer exists, and accelerating advances in technology are eliminating millions of jobs. But the trailblazing of many American educators gives us reasons for hope. HOW?
One of my biggest takeaways from this book was seeing how many schools had STEM focused learning opportunities for kids. Those students were excelling on all the state and benchmark tests and outperforming other schools. I was sold. I decided to find ways to incorporate STEM learning opportunities for my students at school. Several of my teachers had already been delving deeper into this area and now I was hooked. I found a summer STEM training and encouraged my teachers to attend. Ever since I read Ted’s book, I have been on a mission to find ways to provide STEM opportunities for my teachers to infuse into their classroom to create opportunities for students to practice problem solving, thinking critically, analyzing, creativity and innovation.
That’s why when Sahaana Rajagopalan, a former North Star student emailed me one day sharing that she and a few of her high school friends started a project to bring STEM activities and lessons to all kids really caught my attention. A, I think it is the biggest compliment when a former student comes back finding ways to help kids as well as the kids from the very school they graduated from - it’s one of the most rewarding moments as an educator. I couldn’t just stop there. After meeting with this inspiring group of girls, I was so pumped up. Their heart to help kids and bring STEM opportunities to all kids just lifted my spirits. I was sold. I wanted to do anything to help them. So, we set up a monthly call, and over the past few months, I’ve helped arrange for them to speak at school PTA meetings to get the word out about their free service, as well as at faculty meetings. They’ve built a website with interactive STEM activities that engage kids in grades K-5. Teachers in my school have linked up with Sahaana and her team to lead virtual STEM lessons and activities within the school day for our in-person as well as our online students. Listen to what one of my 3rd grade teachers said,“ The students from the Sparks project did a fantastic job of keeping my students engaged and teaching them about outer space. They were thorough in their planning and execution of the lessons. I look forward to them visiting again!
I loved how when I asked my teachers what else we could do to spread the word about this groups opportunity for kids, one of them said, host them on your podcast. And I thought, well now that’s genius. Ok, I know, I was a little embarrassed I didn’t come up with the idea myself, but that’s ok. That’s why we have each other to help us see things sometimes that are staring us right in the face. Thank you Michelle Scott! So, here is my interview with them. They are going to share with you about their SPARKS project, and they have an exciting opportunity to share with you that is going to take place THIS SUMMER! So listen to the end of this episode to learn about an opportunity they have for your child this summer.
Every time I hear these girls speak, their excitement just makes me smile. And if this isn’t something you are interested in right now, or maybe you are listening and you don’t have children, please help me share this opportunity with one other person you know who might be interested. We have an incredible opportunity here to help our children learn problem-solving and critical thinking skills, it’s a chance to leave our kids alone - as Dr. Borba says in her new book, “Thrivers” - why? so they can foster a sense of curiosity and creativity to become the innovators our world needs. Our kids are our future. They will be taking care of you and I one day. Let’s create a culture of innovation together.
These girls have their own website and recently, they have been zooming in to classes at North Star Elementary School to conduct virtual STEM lessons live during the school day.
Teachers are saying:
"Sahaana and her team have presented four engaging lessons over Zoom to my class this year. They are diligent in their work, choosing Common Core Standards that align to our curriculum. They are also creative in their lesson development and always make it engaging for my students using online resources such as Peardeck and Kahoot. My students and I look forward to each time that they join us." - Mrs. Scott, 2nd Grade Teacher, North Star Elementary School
Kids can access interactive lessons right on their website.
Listen to this episode to learn why they started this project and learn how to log in so your child can have fun learning using these exciting and interactive STEM lessons. This is a great tool to use this summer for your kids during long car rides to the beach to keep their minds learning and growing.
Sign up today for their free STEM Fair on July 24th.
Kids can work on their project all summer long and enjoy a virtual STEM Fair online via zoom in July with prizes for the winners!