Community groups teach youth at annual STEAM festival | Education


IMPERIAL – The Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the Imperial County Office of Education (ICOE) held its annual Science, Technology, Arts and Mathematics Festival – or STEAM – on Tuesday, November 8.

According to the administrators, the purpose of the ICOE STEAM Festival is to engage Imperial County students in STEAM-centric activities to stimulate their creative minds.

“We really try to live up to our mission statement, which is to improve the quality of life in our community through our work. One of these is university events for students. This event is centered around the community coming and sharing their expertise in a STEAM field,” said program coordinator Michael Garcia.

Students were separated into groups and placed in a rotation of 6 different activities, each led by community organizations from across the Imperial Valley.

Calipatria students build structures with tools provided by Mexicali-based El Garage Hub during the 2022 ICOE STEAM festival.

“We have six groups today, we have El Centro FFA, Farm Smart who joins us to make ice cream. We have IID here who works with burrowing owls, we have El Garage Hub from Mexicali, who does robots and 3D printing, we have IVROP doing a STEM activity and the IVC STEM club,” said program coordinator Kristin Wells.

The students arrived at the Casa de Mañana building at the Imperial Valley Fairgrounds at 7:30 a.m. They took part in a series of rotations until 10:00 a.m., then received a brain break before embarking on another series of activities until lunch.

“There’s a lot of learning going on right now, so we’re going to give them the brain break so they can focus on fun activities to let the brain be comfortable where they’re having fun and also practice mindfulness and relaxation by inhaling and exhaling, but then we intensify it with a bit of Simon Says and stretching and dancing,” said program coordinator Armando Lopez.

Some of the participating students this year were grades 6 through 8 from Jefferson, Bill Young, Heber and Calipatria schools. They all received a t-shirt and a handbag when they arrived.

There were also student volunteers from the STEAM group of IVC and Southwest Highschool teaching math and science lessons to middle schoolers.

“We are always looking for opportunities for El Centro FFA and our students to be able to contribute to what they are learning in the classroom, to teach others about agriculture so they can practice their advocacy, one of the most important things is that they are able to communicate the concepts of science,” said Kristin Mayo, an agriculture professor at Southwest High School and an El Centro FFA advisor.

El Centro FFA students handed out worksheets and displayed apples for children to interact with during their lesson. Their STEAM activity showed how mutually beneficial it is to have all students involved in the ICOE STEAM festival.

“Today they’re talking about genetically modified organisms and being able to deliver the message because I think a lot of that is a misconception of the concepts. So now they’ve had some conversations about what a genetically modified organism is, and the children got to taste an oval apple, they learned about genetics, dominant and recessive traits by smelling it, tasting it, working with the punnet squares with the Les FFA students. I hope it makes the concepts they learn in 7th and 8th grade a bit more realistic and also reinforces what my high school students are learning,” Mayo said.

The ICOE STEAM festival is presented every year. The ICOE welcomes more community partnerships every year to help teach any STEAM-related activity.

“It’s important that students have fun learning, asking questions, being curious, connecting with community members, it just opens their minds to what STEAM is and what it looks like in person and what what it means for their future,” García said.


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