Hefner Middle School students with their STEM project. Photo by Jason Pierce.
Oftentimes I wonder if people really know what it is a foundation does. We use that word in so many ways that it doesn’t give much clarity. Even knowing our mission is to “enhance and enrich the educational activities of children in Putnam City” conveys an esoteric list of possible activities. When trying to convince someone that our organization is worthy of their gifts, it’s best not to be so cryptic.
This blog series is an attempt to remedy that with some concrete information about our work. At the end of each year, I ask our main program leaders to share some highlights of the year with us. These provide some tangible insight into the activities done with our donor’s gifts throughout the year.
Our district Science Curriculum Coordinator Heather Johnston has a vision for making Putnam City as recognized for STEM as it is for the arts, and has won grants outside of the PC Foundation to help her achieve that goal. She has provided more training to these STEM teachers than I think they’ve gotten in years. She’s bought robots that teach Programming C, started Stomp Rockets, bought Makerspace and Tinkering materials, provided items for plant growth and sustainability, all with donor gifts and grants.
My favorite thing she’s having teachers focus on is the concept of citizen scientists. These are projects in which everyday people — including students — work together with scientists to answer real-world questions and conduct data collection, according to the National Geographic. Our students could be asked to submit their own observations to help track biodiversity or light pollution! How about that for getting kids hooked on science?
Another important aspect of the elementary STEM program is how it exposes kids to careers they’ve never heard about or seen. Now they know it’s a job to research sounds in nature — become a bioacoustics researcher! Maybe they are learning how to best to divert rain water from low lying areas (like my house!) – become a hydrologist.
The best thing Ms. Johnston said when asked about her program’s impact was how, in STEM, children are told, “yes, you can do anything!”