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Combining science, technology, engineering and math into one family night at Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary school made it possible to play with robots, participate in math Olympics and shy away from a live owl all in one place.
“He came home and begged me to go out in the cold,” Maureen Greenfeld said of her grandson, Dillon Jordan, 7, who wanted to attend the program last week.
Temperatures were below freezing, but as long as the school system did not cancel evening activities, the Newburg school was committed to holding STEM night.
Greenfeld said she did not regret the decision to come out in the cold to participate because she and Dillon were having fun and learning. She said she supports anything “that reinforces what’s being done in the curriculum.”
During the evening, parents and students were invited to participate in various sessions that included presentations from Mike Callahan, an instructor at Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center; aerospace engineer Todd Masters; and Frances Sherman, recycling superintendent for the Charles County Department of Public Works.
Students saw familiar faces, too, as several teachers had their classrooms open for projects including math Olympics, LEGO robotics and art projects that combined arts and crafts with math.
Cole Barrett, 6, didn’t realize it at the time but later was told making paper airplanes with his family and friends Thursday night was using math such as geometry. Barrett said he was having fun at the different presentations and activity sessions.
“I’m learning about a lot of stuff,” he said.
Parents learned, too, which is what a lot of the family night was aimed at, event coordinator Melissa Withrow said.
As the school system embraces the Common Core State Standards, which school officials say is aimed at linking curricula in English and math from state to state, Withrow said it’s important to get parents involved so they can see what students are doing in schools. She said bringing in presenters helps bring awareness to students and parents of the various jobs available to them that combine content areas such as science and math.
With the various sessions such as math Olympics where students and parents worked together or in competition on estimating, with multiple activities including estimating how many drops of water can fit on the surface area of a penny.
Tristen Carter, 8, and his brother Dante, 14, said they liked the activities Thursday night.
“He definitely knows more about science than me,” Dante said about his little brother.
Dante attended Higdon when he was in elementary school and said it was cool to see all the different ways math and science have been incorporated in the classroom.
While learning about recycling from Sherman, students and parents were able to use iPads the school received via a grant that are used in some classes as a learning tool.
On Thursday night, students were showing parents how to navigate through a game that helps illustrate the importance of recycling.
Chrissy DeAtley said the use of the iPad was engaging students such as her son Koda, 9.
Koda said the activities on the iPad are more interesting than learning just from a textbook.
Parents and students seemed engaged when listening to the guest presenters.
One student asked Masters about the strength of a rocket and how “it has to be strong enough to get through the atmosphere.”
Masters took on that question explaining how rockets come to be and how engineers only get one shot to get it right before takeoff
“That’s why we count down.” He said during the countdown, engineers are checking to make sure everything is ready to go smoothly. Otherwise, there will be no launch.
Higdon Principal Kathleen Morgan said given the weather conditions she was happy to see that so many came out to participate. There were more than 150 who attended.
She said this was the first time the school included guest speakers to come in and talk about their careers during a family night. She said the speakers combined with the interactive activities made for a great evening for students and their parents.
Parent Chris Bowling said he really enjoyed the event.
He said the children liked the activities and being able to do them with their parents, and parents “get to work with kids and see what they are up to.”
Withrow said more family nights are planed for later in the year.