• MHCC’s East Metro STEAM Partnership: Science, Art, Paint & Slime

    Cathleen Monroy sits in a circle of fourth and fifth graders wearing white lab coats at Salish Ponds Elementary School in Fairview.

    steam 01

    “We want to make sure the hole we make isn’t too big,” she says, holding up a Styrofoam cup with a small pencil hole in the base. “So our liquid doesn’t dribble out right away.”

    The class is making pendulum paintings. Next, they will affix the cups (with tape over the holes) to string, attach the string to the center of yardsticks and balance the yardsticks across two chairs, about two-and-a-half feet apart. Beneath the cups, they’ll add large sheets of white paper, before filling the cups with purple paint, tearing off the tape covering the pinholes and swinging the cups in an arch.

    The resulting paintings display dotted Spirograph-style drawings – depending, of course, on how well the students followed directions.

    “Today we’re going to learn a new word too: The word is viscous,” continues Monroy to the class. “It means the thickness of the liquid. We want to make sure our liquid is less watery – or more viscous – but not so much so that it becomes mostly solid and gets stuck in the cup.”

    The 19 girls and two boys sitting before Monroy are part of Salish Ponds’ new two-day-a-week after-school program Full STEAM Ahead. Organized by SUN Metropolitan Family Services, the program began in January 2017 with the aim of getting more elementary students involved and interested in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) activities and fields.

    Grant money from the state-funded East Metro STEAM Partnership (EMSP) – overseen by Mt. Hood Community College – will allow the Full STEAM students to continue projects like these, as well as attend field trips to local museums and science centers, all with the goal of engaging more young people in science and the arts.

    “It’s a popular program; we have kids still trying to get in but had to cap the number of participants,” said Monroy, a reading specialist of 13 years. Last summer, she envisioned starting a program at Salish Ponds that would allow for more hands-on STEAM-oriented education. Grant funding from EMSP and other agencies helped make that vision a reality.

    Monroy has trained in STEAM education; she recognizes its importance to students and the community. And she hopes to keep Full STEAM going next year as well.

    “We’re really seeing that STEM/STEAM education needs to be at the forefront of our educational system,” she said. “Because that’s where most of jobs are going now. And there’s lots of opportunity in STEAM jobs – in design, in engineering and technology – and it’s vital to provide this education and training.”

    East Metro STEAM: Raising awareness and connecting partners

    Krystal Meisel serves as program director of the EMSP, headquartered at MHCC. EMSP is one of 11 STEAM hubs statewide. Meisel’s primary goal is building networks, engaging and educating the public and connecting partners to best serve youth-oriented STEAM programs in East County. EMSP’s core focuses include building partnerships to support formal and informal STEAM education; working with community and business partners to encourage STEAM and Career and Technical Education (CTE) opportunities; and engaging with stakeholders to increase the participation of underrepresented groups – including women/girls and minority, disabled and disadvantaged students – in STEAM fields. The organization currently achieves this through professional development opportunities for STEAM educators and through grant funded-collaborative STEAM programs and projects.

    “MHCC serves as the ‘backbone’ of this program,” said Meisel. “The college serves as the fiscal agent, contracts for the various projects go through here, funding for the entire partnership program come through Mt. Hood Community College…And this entire partnership really ties into the school’s overall mission of partner building, community programming and inclusive education.”

    On the professional development side, grant funding from Boeing has allowed EMSP to work closely with the Multnomah Education Service District to provide Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) training to some 40 educators in East County. NGSS offers a framework for K-12 science education by drawing from current scientific research – including research on how students learn science most effectively.

    steam 02

    On the STEAM initiatives side, EMSP heads the Pockets of Innovation program, which connects two or more partners – including schools, nonprofits and government agencies – to develop and implement youth STEAM education projects. With Pockets of Innovation, EMSP makes the necessary connections and funds and promote the projects, leaving creation and oversight to the partnered organizations.

    Last December, Meisel sent out a request for STEAM project submissions from East Metro agencies and organizations. The 22 submissions received were reviewed and narrowed down by more than 500 online participants. Of those submissions, 15 have or will receive $6,000 in EMSP grant funding for the 2017 fiscal year. The Pockets programs vary and include physical projects, like the mini-mobile maker stations, equipped with 3D printers, computers and “mechanical equipment” that students and teachers at David Douglas High School are building for use in the district’s elementary schools.

    The Pockets projects also include new equipment purchases, like a router, vinyl cutter and additional computerized manufacturing equipment bought by the Fir Ridge alternative school for its science and industrial arts classes. And they include funding for existing STEAM programs, like the All Kids Are Scientists at Multnomah County Libraries, as well as new programming, like Full STEAM Ahead at Salish Ponds and Dream it, Code it, Make it! at Centennial Middle School.

    Carolyn Dishman, a seventh-grade science teacher at Centennial Middle School, will use the EMSP grant funding to integrate computer programming into a seventh-grade technology class, beginning this spring. The current tech course focuses on using search engines and Google applications. With Dream it, Code it, Make it!, Dishman will develop a lesson plan – using resources from the national Hour of Code program – and share the curriculum with her colleagues. The curriculum will focus on creating basic games and animations by coding from scratch.

    “Coding is a skillset that all students need,” said Dishman. “We’re living in a digital age, and it’s something they should be exposed to in elementary school – so that hopefully some will continue on with it. Because the later they start learning something like this, the harder it is to get them comfortable with computer science concepts, and they’ll just abandon it.”

    Currently no programming classes exist at the middle school level in Centennial School District; high school students can take programming though. Depending on the success of the middle school course offered this spring, Dream it, Code it, Make it! will expand next school year to include Centennial’s eighth grade students as well.

    Flying film canisters and catapulting fluffy balls

    Back at Salish Ponds Elementary, purple paint-splattered 2-foot-by-2-foot papers ring a table as they dry. The students are finishing up their last paintings before cleaning up for the day. Monroy talks about some of the class’s upcoming field trips, including to the Art of STEM in North Portland and to OMSI, and about how the students have begun suggesting projects they want to try.

    “There’s been some requests, including one for slime,” she says. “So I told her to look up recipes with no more than four ingredients from some different websites and show them to me. Another student wants to do something with stop-motion animation, so we’re planning for that.”

    At the end of each class, they discuss how the experiment or project went, what they learned and how it relates to a principle or concept in STEAM. They learn to think critically – like scientists – to question their findings and to use scientific terms.

    As to their favorite projects so far, the students are pretty unanimous: film-canister rockets (to explain Bernoulli’s principle), followed closely by catapults and something called a marble maze to teach physics and engineering.

    Fifth grader Lupita Martinez enjoyed making the catapults most.

    “We got to shoot stuff up!” she says excitedly. “Well, with fluffy balls.”

    Kayla Copeland, another fifth grader, wants to work in forensic science. In the meantime, however, she’s content making film-canister rockets.

    “We had no idea when or where they were going to launch,” she remembers, “so whenever they went off, we all screamed.”

    Fourth grader Sophia Ceron preferred the film-canister rockets too, but adds that she likes most of the projects so far.

    “The program gets you really excited about science, art, technology and everything – it’s really fun doing all this!” she says.

    Clearly, it’s working.

    You can learn more about EMSP and the Pockets of Innovation projects by visiting EastMetroSteam.org

    “We’re really seeing that STEM/STEAM education needs to be at the forefront of our educational system. Because that’s where most of jobs are going now. And there’s lots of opportunity in STEAM jobs – in design, in engineering and technology – and it’s vital to provide this education and training.”