After School STEM Program Is Racing Into Success

MARCH 23, 2018

Tags: After SchoolAfter School ProgramsAmber BryantBlogChildrenComputer CenterComputer LabKansasKansas CityKCKPhotographsRace carsSTEMSTEM activities

In the summer of 2017, Connecting For Good created an after school STEM program, Connecting KC Kids, at the Kansas City, KS Computer Center.  This included the summer STEM camp, and a variety of activities throughout the fall and winter months. On March 11, 2018, Amber Bryant was hired as the new Program Coordinator to expand the number of students, as well as partner with STEM groups in the Kansas City area.

Expansion has already begun to take place. Bryant connected with Kansas Women In Technology for a CoderDojo program that takes place once a month every Saturday. The children learn how to code using a program called SCRATCH, where they build their own games and learn how to create worlds using their imagination and technology. 

During the school week, Connecting KC Kids is held every Wednesday, but Bryant has plans to extend it to two to three times a week. Groups of four work with her at one time, but on days when the center is full it is difficult to have all students participate because of time constraints. Bryant says that with additional days, she will be able to assign students to a specific day, so that no one will be left out.

The activities, although fun, are ones that Bryant can challenge the students to discover and explore solutions through a creative use of STEM logic.

On March 21, the children were given a plastic bottle, caps for wheels, a couple of straws, and a balloon to build race cars that could only move once the air from the balloon was released. 

Bryant started out the class by inserting a straw through a string which was taped to opposite walls, making a tight rope . She asked questions such as, “How would I make the string move all the way to the end of the string without touching it?” The purpose of the activity was to make the children think about force: what makes something move without human touch? Bryant attached a balloon to the straw, and when she let go of the end of the balloon, the straw zoomed across to the other side.

She believes it is important  to let the children express themselves through STEM activities, “It gives them an outlet to be creative and use their imagination. With their knowledge of the outside world and subjects they are learning in school, the students can create something new that they can relate to,” Bryant said. 

The children blew air into straws which their balloon was attached to while Bryant hot glued on wheels. Once finished, they raced each other and tried different balloon sizes to see what would happen. 

Through trial and error, the happiness and excitement of successfully creating a working race car was shown across every face. Bryant explains that, “The kids build self-confidence knowing that with time and patience, they can say to themselves, ‘I can figure this out on my own.'”

Have activity suggestions? Please feel free to share below!

Written by Anna Edwards

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