By: Kirsten Crum, Project STEAM Co-Chair and Endowment Fund Co-Chair
Project STEAM, the newest community project for the Junior League of Palo Alto-Mid Peninsula, is the result of a renewed partnership with Project READ, an organization that fuels the fire of hope through literacy. Their free community literacy programs provide training to adults, children and families. Our original partnership with Project READ began in 2011. Project READ committee members completed an extensive fifteen hours of training to become literacy tutors and volunteered in the Family Literary Instructional Center (FLIC) helping students with their homework and reading skills. As a community project, Project READ was sunset in 2015, but our relationship with the program director, Kathy Endaya, and her staff remained as League members continued to volunteer at the FLIC and support their programs long after the project ended.
Then our League selected a new focus area in 2015: Empowering Girls to be STEAM Leaders of Tomorrow. We soon learned that Project READ was piloting their own STEAM program and naturally reached out to partner with them again. The collaboration produced Project STEAM, a series of workshops and mentoring sessions aimed at increasing girls’ confidence and interest in STEAM coursework. The STEAM workshops, held on weekends and open to the whole family, include an array of activity stations staffed by League volunteers. Our volunteers engage students with questions that spark their curiosity. One of these recent workshops celebrated fall and leaf science.
Colorful fall leaves were scattered across the room and incorporated into most of the activities at the November Project STEAM workshop, held at the Redwood City Library. Students and their families studied shapes and veins while making rubbings of pressed fall leaves. They created drawings of tree trunks with realistic bark and added real dried leaves with glue. At the tinker table, whole fragrant spices like star anise, cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods, added to the sensory experience of constructing a fall wreath. At another station, students painted leaves cut from coffee filters with watercolors to create coffee filter leaf sun catchers—beautiful when taped to a sunny window. Leaves turned into animals and insects at the leafcritter table. Examples include layering multiple leaves for an owl or using a single leaf for a fish. Acrylic paint was applied for accents like eyes and feet, and when dry, had a glossy 3D effect. At the popular Candy Cane playdough station, students measured ingredients, followed directions and got messy making red and white playdough, scented with peppermint oil. Then they rolled the playdough into snakes and twisted a red snake around a white snake to make a playdough candy cane!
The usual favorite activities were also available:
- Snap circuit kits which encourage a curiosity for electrical design
- Marble runs and fort building that bring out the budding engineer and architect
- Programming Dot the robot, powered by a tablet app, to navigate an obstacle course
The November STEAM workshop was attended by 24 eager children (10 of whom were girls) and 5 enthusiastic League volunteers from the Project STEAM committee. It was blustery fun for the whole family!