Terra Alta Elementary hosts Family STEM Night

TERRA ALTA —  Parents, grandparents and students gathered around various tables filled with projects from Legos to virtual reality at Terra Alta Elementary last week.

This was the first Family STEM Night. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. The purpose of  STEM activities is to teach students to become problem solvers and critical thinkers.

Lori Baker, school improvement specialist, said STEM brings technology to students. She said the STEM bus was made available to students and the community Thursday.

“The goal is to have it (the bus) out in the community this summer when school is out,” Baker said.

Mary Martin, technology integration specialist for Preston County Schools, said she works with students and teachers. She said this year all fifth graders received a laptop from county schools.

They will keep the laptop through their school years.

“The activities are all hands-on,” She said. “Students learn more with hands-on. A student might have trouble with math, but that student could go into coding class and keep up with the other students.”

Science teacher Samantha Funk said the teachers and faculty are focusing on next year’s standards. She said family night provided 15 hands-on activities available for all grade levels.

Krista Nazelrod, a third grade teacher, showed off OSMO, a tablet like device that interfaces with an iPad. She said each child in her class had his or own profile.

“It lets you choose an activity level,” she said. “The student has to use seven shapes to make the picture on the screen. A camera inputs their work. Once the shape is complete it moves up to the next level.”

Nazelrod said along with pictures, OSMO also has letters and numbers.

“It helps build critical thinking,” she said.

Jim Davis, dean of students at the school, challenged those stopping at his table to make the tallest tower they could out of mini marshmallows and spaghetti.

Abby Rose Sisler and WVU 4-H Extension Agent David Hartley offered students an experience in entry level virtual reality. The students could have a virtual underwater experience or visit the Great Wall of China.

Dolly Everly, who accompanied her grandson Jalin Everly, said she believed family STEM Night was a good idea.

Amber Fitchett and her daughter Emma, a pre-K student, said it was their first time to a STEM program. Both enjoyed the experience.

Susan Baker looked on as her son Braydon Baker played with the Legos. “This is cool,” he said.