Medora students, families, staff come together for STEM event


Science, technology, engineering and math have been incorporated into nearly every activity this school year in Medora.

Whether it’s in their classrooms or in the makerspace lab, students and staff members have been fully immersed in those subjects.

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Recently, the school decided to get tropical by holding Hawaiian STEM Night to give students and their families a chance to learn and have fun at the same time.

The STEM stations consisted of bubble shell painting, layers of the ocean, erupting volcano and kinetic sand. The game stations were Pass the Coconut, hula hoops, limbo, Hawaiian bowling and Dress Like a Hawaiian photo booth.

Since Medora Community School Corp. received a grant last year, it has built a STEM framework. That included hiring a STEM facilitator, which wound up being Kara Hunt, putting together a makerspace lab and hiring a parent outreach coordinator, which is Ange Arthur.

Arthur has organized other STEM activities this school year with the help of Hunt and Principal Austin Skutnik.

When she took the position last March, Arthur said they agreed to have STEM events in the fall and spring, but they also had one around Christmastime, too.

She said Hawaiian STEM Night had double the attendance of the fall event, which she credits to students becoming interested through the work done in their classrooms.

“The teachers have been fantastic promoting STEM and also promoting tonight,” Arthur said.

Seeing the interactions between students, their families and the staff members was great, she said.

“They can come together with their families, enjoy their time and they are all learning together,” she said. “Especially from my position’s standpoint, it’s huge to see that family interaction.”

She said she hopes the students are able to take what they learn with STEM and connect it in life.

“Because that’s always what it comes down to, can they take these skills and put it to work when they go into the workforce, just in their everyday life?” she said.

Between Hawaiian STEM Night and a STEM field day planned for today at the school, Hunt said it has become a natural part of everything they do at the school.

“We want them to also know, which I think they’ve learned through the year, that STEM is fun and learning is fun,” she said. “Hopefully tonight, they learned some things about Hawaiian culture through the STEM lens.”

She also liked seeing the families have fun together.

“Our parents are also becoming knowledgeable about STEM,” Hunt said. “I think they are learning what it is. I think they are excited that it plays a big role in our school.”

During Hawaiian STEM Night, Elisa Branaman followed her children, fifth grader Madison Branaman and third grader Damon Branaman, around the school’s cafeteria as they tried each activity.

“I just think it’s fun for them to be able to get out and do stuff and not be in the classroom setting,” Elisa said. “I like that they get to have the experience and have fun, that this school has something to offer.”

Both of her children said the erupting volcano was their favorite. That required putting Play-Doh around a small paper cup and pouring vinegar into a substance to make it bubble and foam.

“It was just fun to do and to make a mess, too,” Madison said, smiling.

“I like that it turned blue and that it foamed bubbles,” Damon said.

Madison and Damon had made volcanoes outside at home before and done a lot of STEM activities at school.

“We know some of it, like chemical reactions or something like that,” Madison said.

“There’s something to learn in everything you do,” Damon said.

Holly Jaycox, a seventh and eighth grade math and language arts teacher at the school, helped at the erupting volcano station.

“When they dump the vinegar, they do not expect it. It actually blows their mind,” she said. “They can picture the volcano erupting even though it’s just a cup with Play-Doh on it.”

This school year, she said students have been super excited about the makerspace lab and classroom activities because they are growing up on technology.

“We’re trying to teach them the STEM process, and we all have posters in our classrooms that say engineer, plan, create, think,” Jaycox said. “It’s cool because when you’re doing something in class, the kids will be like, ‘Oh, we did this in science’ or ‘We’re doing this in history.’ We can correlate, and they are seeing it constantly over and over, which is what we need to get them to pass the state test.”