IR science night fun for parents and students
Indian River families can be science adventurers – and almost forget that they’re learning – at the STEM Passport to Innovation Family Workshop Series. Sponsored by the IR School District Parent Center, the four-part series blasted off with Aerospace Action & Adventure Night at John M. Clayton Elementary School on April 24.
Students from kindergarten through high school built rocket-cars and bottle-rockets, all the while learning about astronomy, aerodynamics and physics.
“The parents seemed to get into is as much as the children did!” said Michele Murphy of the Parent Center. “It was nice to see how engaged the parents were with their children doing the activities.”
The workshops each have a different theme and provide hands-on fun and learning while helping children explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Murphy said STEM is the fastest-growing career field, so Indian River High School and Selbyville Middle School are developing STEM education programs.
The free family series is funded by a Race to the Top competitive grant awarded to the IRSD Parent Center.
Families got a first-hand NASA rocket demonstration as Wallops Flight Facility engineers launched air- and bottle-rockets. Wallops also brought a real sounding rocket, commonly used for space experiments.
District employee Teresa Luziere, whose sons attend IRSD schools, brought her sons and husband to learn more and to enjoy the cars and rockets. She said she’s interested in the STEM programs coming to Selbyville Middle School.
Young children and parents partnered at the event to construct balloon rocket-cars. They created vehicles that were powered by the air released from inflated balloons.
Erika Holdren was one of many students eagerly chasing her balloon car around the gym. She already had plans to continue experimenting after the workshop ended.
“I like it. I’m going to try it at home,” said Holdren, as student at Showell Elementary School in Ocean Pines, Md.
Meanwhile, first-grader Emirhan Sas of East Millsboro Elementary School and Anthony Prater raced cars, experimenting with different balloons.
“We wanted to get out to do something different, see some rockets,” said Prater, who has long enjoyed aerospace studies himself.
Children marveled at the real spacesuit and tried on 11-layer astronaut gloves from ILC Dover, which produced the original Apollo missions’ spacesuits.
Inside an inflatable “Starlab” planetarium, people also learned the names and positions of stars and constellations.
Families worked together to build bottle-rockets with teachers from IRSD’s Outdoor Education Center at Ingram Pond. The rockets constructed by children in grades 4 to 12 can be entered into the Rockets for Delaware Competition at Cape Henlopen State Park on Saturday, May 5.
Even District Superintendent Susan Bunting attended the aerospace workshop, emphasizing the importance of STEM education through fun, innovative activities.
The IRSD Parent Center helps parents and communities to engage in their children’s education, aiming to create a lifelong enthusiasm for learning. Parent workshops are designed to help keep families up-to-date on the new initiative and emphasize how important a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and math will be for students’ academic and professional endeavors, said Murphy.
“I think we have definitely hit an interest spot for our community,” said Murphy. “We received a lot of positive feedback. Those that missed it are already inquiring about the next one.”
Three more Passport to Innovation family workshops are scheduled for May, August and September. [See sidebar for additional dates.] All workshops will offer transportation to the event, childcare for toddlers and snacks. For more information, contact the Indian River Parent Center at (302) 732-1522.