Written By: Michael Kennedy
Incorporating STEM and its art addition (STEAM) has been critically important given that often there is a lack of hands-on projects in education. It is more significant and impactful learning when the kids get to experience what they are learning.
Hannah Pfannenstein is a 2021 graduate of CSB in her third year at Yes Network. She is a STEM and Art leader who helps plan and prep activities that include art and STEM for use at the various Yes Network sites. CSBSJU students are given opportunities to participate and help Yes Network, this past fall, Hannah oversaw the take and make STEM kits distributed around St. Cloud. “The science and math pedagogy classes at CSBSU built STEM take and make kits and taught local high schoolers how to use these kits so that they could bring them back to their communities and teach them to neighborhood kids.” These CSBSJU students did not teach the STEM lessons themselves, instead of allowing high schoolers to pass the information along increasing engagement levels. Yes Network strives to engage the community they serve by hiring older kids in neighborhoods to help teach activities or distribute food. “It’s been so awesome, and I think by far this has been our best year for having strong projects and student child engagement.”
Shane is a behavior research specialist, working at a level 4 middle school with kids who have not been successful in mainstream school. This is his fourth summer at Yes network where he focuses on STEAM, art, and Social-Emotional Learning. “The social-emotional learning aspect is achieved by discovering students’ strengths/goals/interests, and movement towards tailored hands-on projects.” Social-emotional learning, Shane says, is a foundationally important step that fosters engagement and participation. “STEM programs help all kids. They help all people. Many STEM programs are experienced based. I believe this is the best way to learn. It is important to see the amazing things all around. It’s one thing to know pewter is denser than water. It is more significant to stir molten pewter and scoop some up with a ladle. You feel density.”
Alicia Peters is an Art Pedagogy instructor at CSBSJU who in addition is the Art and Stem director at Yes Network. Kids are naturally curious, using their senses to explore and question the world around them. Yes Network welcomes these curiosities with projects that engage their critical and creative minds. “The ideas, questions, creating, and exploration happen through the arts followed by testing, experimenting, and creating prototypes happen in STEM. The kids then can engage in their brain in multiple modes using hands-on experiences. It is the best type of learning.” Learning through experiencing invites storytelling and sharing. The kids do not forget these activities and often share them with friends and family. “Another exciting component is the Language development we are doing through STEAM. We have a word of the day and a question prompt for the Vistas to engage the kids with.”
Yes Network sees the value in bringing hands-on STEM projects into the neighborhoods, especially given the lack of these projects in education. Hannah, Shane, Alicia, and all of the STEAM/Art leaders incorporate social-emotional learning, STEAM, and language development into their project designs to create a well-rounded experience for the kids.