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Teacher Education brings “STEM to THEM” for local elementary students

Two college students assemble science experiments at a table
IDoTeach secondary education candidates assemble science kits that were distributed to students at Garfield Elementary.

In ordinary times, fall semester would bring the popular Boise State-sponsored Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) night to Garfield Elementary in Boise. Boise State’s teacher education candidates from IDoTeach and other preparation programs would have been on-site demonstrating interactive science experiments and engaging kids in STEM activities within Garfield’s classrooms – classrooms that would fill with hundreds of surprised squeals and excited laughter from students and parents alike as the activities unfolded throughout the evening.

When this semester’s STEM night was cancelled due to the pandemic, Boise State teacher candidates and faculty stepped up so students wouldn’t be let down. Thanks to a partnership with Jack’s Urban Meeting Place (JUMP) in downtown Boise, teacher candidates and faculty were able to meet in a large indoor space that featured accommodations to assemble individual STEM kits for Garfield teachers to hand out before Thanksgiving break. By bringing the kits to elementary students this year, the endeavor was named “STEM to THEM”.

Teacher candidates, along with volunteer videographers from Boise State’s theater arts department, used the space at JUMP to create and record demonstration videos for the students to see how the experiments in the kits worked. The opportunity for teacher candidates to collaborate in-person with one another at JUMP gave them the ability to fully engage with the materials and develop best practices for teaching STEM concepts to students remotely in the videos.

Kids with science packets
Students at Garfield Elementary received STEM kits to take home over Thanksgiving break.

Sonia Galaviz (EdD, curriculum and instruction, ’20) who teaches fifth grade at Garfield, advised teacher candidates while they developed the video lessons at JUMP.  Galaviz has seen firsthand how much past STEM nights and the kits this year have positively impacted students at a Title I school like Garfield. “Having STEM investigations tailored for Garfield students and their families means the world to our community,” Galaviz said. “This year has been particularly challenging and not having our big STEM event face-to-face has been disappointing for everyone. Providing the kits and tutorial videos allows those experiences and opportunities to continue, even at home.”

Matt Wigglesworth, master teacher and clinical instructor for IDoTeach, explained how the project benefited Boise State’s teacher candidates, who were preparing to learn remotely themselves after Thanksgiving break. “During COVID, our teacher candidates have had less opportunity to work together,” Wigglesworth said. “This was an opportunity for them to work in small groups in a safe setting and to really dig into what the science standards are to develop a (STEM) lesson that was powerful for kids.”