STEAM Night Seeks to Power Interest in Science

Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK James Cartnal, executive director of Pupil and Personnel Programs and Services, shows youths how to work with tools at the STEAM night on Monday.
Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
James Cartnal, executive director of Pupil and Personnel Programs and Services, shows youths how to work with tools at the STEAM night on Monday.

The educational concept known as STEAM is, in large part, about giving students the tools to excel in science and technology. So it seemed appropriate that hand drills, saws and other implements figured prominently in the La Cañada Unified School District’s first system-wide STEAM night of the academic year.
“I’m just trying to bring in a love of science for the kids and try to have different activities that expand different things,” Amy Nespor, LCUSD’s community science liaison, said Monday at the event at La Cañada Elementary School’s cafeteria. “It’s STEAM because I want to show those are all incorporated: science, technology, engineering, arts and math.”
More than 50 people, a mix of students and parents, attended the event sponsored by the district’s science enrichment programs, with most of the crowd lingering for an hour or so.
“Tonight’s event is all about tools,” Nespor said. “It’s awesome, because they have kid-size drills. And [a representative of reDiscover Center] will teach them what all the tools do. And they get to play with some stuff.” The center tries to spur children’s creativity through hands-on work with sustainable materials.
Nespor added that reDiscover employee Jenna Ervin called the expo a “tool petting zoo.”
And it was a way to get children excited about science, Nespor said.
“It doesn’t have to be scary,” Nespor said. “And it incorporates the next-generation science standards.”
Mihret Knuth, 9, a 4th-grader who attends Paradise Canyon Elementary School, said she enjoyed seeing the sawdust created from a hand tool she used.
“I’m already really into science,” she said when asked if the event had made her want to enter the field. “I would like to be a NASA rocket launcher or send robots into space.”
She said she found out about the event from her teacher and would be interested in returning.
Bob Knuth, her father, said hands-on science education is important for all kids.
“I have a 9-year-old girl who loves physical things, and she loves science, and this seemed like a great way to spend an evening,” Knuth said. “It is especially important that girls get a chance to do this work and have this fun.”
Greg Nassir watched his sons Blake, 7, a 2nd-grader, and 5th-grader Reed, 10, both of La Cañada Elementary, try out various tools at the event.
Nassir, who lets his children use his power tools, with supervision, when he has small projects to finish, said his family loves the extracurricular activities from the school, but Monday’s event was special.
“The whole STEAM world is where so many of your jobs are, of the future, and to have kids exposed to that early is really important,” Nassir said. “They don’t just sit and listen, but touch and feel and do. … It can stoke somebody’s enthusiasm for a field in the future. Our kids have always been hands-on.”
Blake Nassir, who was standing in line waiting to use a drill, said he might be able to use what he was learning Monday to enter one of three careers: “scientist, Army man and a police.”
Brother Reed, who was circulating through the room and trying various tools, said his dad’s teaching had exposed him to many of the items in the cafeteria, but not all of them.
“There’s some tools on the table I’ve never seen,” he said. “A square, a hand drill and pulley saw.”
He added he wasn’t sure what career path to take, but he enjoyed science.
“I like science, it’s probably my favorite subject in the school because I just do a lot of experiments,” he said. “And they usually have to do with chain reactions. Like sometimes there’s a little explosion.”
Sarah Quan, 10, a 5th-grader at LCE, used a Makita hand drill while wearing safety glasses as Ervin supervised her.
“It kind of feels like a gun,” said Quan, who is more interested in acting but likes science. “But I’ve never actually held one, it just reminds me of one.”
Ervin, a lead tinker facilitator from the reDiscover Center in Los Angeles, said she felt the event was a success.
“I like working with the kids and the tools, because a lot of times they haven’t gotten to hold them before,” Ervin said. “So we’re all about real experiences, real tools, real materials, so it’s always great to see the kids even just playing with things like the clamps and touching the wood, because this is all stuff they’ve not gotten to do before. Even little simple tasks are monumental for them. It’s really great.”
The center describes itself as a creative reuse center and kids’ maker space that was founded in 2004.
Additionally, reDiscover is hosting an eight-week tinkering workshop at LCE for students in the 2nd through 5th grades, beginning Friday. The workshop, which costs $160, is held Fridays through Nov. 9. To register for the workshop, visit rediscovercenter.org/LCE.
Future STEAM events will be held at other district campuses, with the details still being worked out.
“We rotate it between different sites every month,” Nespor said.

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