After School Classes for K-5 Students Taught Remotely at Two Baraga County Schools

October, a Baraga Elementary student.
October, a student at Baraga Elementary School LOVES engineering. Here she demonstrates how her chute works in class.

The Center for Science & Environmental Outreach is branching into uncharted territory this month! We are kicking off online after-school STEM Clubs (a.k.a. classes) for students in grades K-2 and grades 3-5 at Baraga Elementary (Baraga Public Schools) and CJ Sullivan Elementary (L’Anse Public Schools).

The K-2 after-school class is focused on Michigan Wildlife. In December, they explored Michigan birds, bats, and wildcats, as well as, their habitats and ecosystems. Students made a pine cone bird feeder, a paper bat, and created dot paintings of lynx. K-2 Instructor, Lizzy Barnes, a recent College of Forest Resources & Environmental Science PhD graduate, conducts the K-2 classes using a virtual presentation format that includes short videos and photos, paired with an in-class activity.

Support from BHK staff (who are classroom teachers during the school day) has been critical to the clubs’ success. On one occasion, students went outside with the instructor for a half hour to explore schoolyard habitat using their senses– to hunt for berries, visioning the playground from the eyes of a butterfly, and discovering the trickle of a small intermittent creek– were experiences that would not be possible with solely virtual instruction. For the remainder of the 8-week session, students will take what they observed during their schoolyard nature inventory to plan a hands-on project to create habitat by planting pollinator patches, berry bushes, and tall grasses for thickets.

Students in the grades 3-5 class are tackling Engineering Challenges. They are so engaged, they don’t want to leave when their parents come to pick them up! One student named October (although she is born in June, she told me!) is truly a budding engineer! She told me all about her engineering class last year at her school in Texas—and wishes she had an engineering class this year in school. This after school STEM club is her closest approximation and she LOVES it!

 The 1st week they designed launchers. The 2nd week they competed to design the best ‘seed get-away’!  And the 3rd week, they designed a Chute for a ping pong ball that had to have at least 5 tube parts, 3 different types of tubes (toilet paper tube, paper towel tube, paper cups of different sizes with the bottom removed, etc.), the tubes needed to change direction twice, and land in a cup on the floor. October’s chute is pictured below.

These two school districts are adjacent to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. Baraga Schools has a 46% majority American Indian, which is slightly higher than the Michigan state average of 34% (majority Black). L’Anse has a 31% majority American Indian and 58% of students are economically disadvantaged. 

Want to help 5th grade student, October, attend a 1-week Michigan Tech Summer Youth Program (SYP) in Summer 2021? Send your donation to Michigan Tech Fund 340l and put October’s name on the Memo line. A one-week SYP class costs $978.


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