AMES, Iowa -- Rockets flew last week at the Iowa 4-H YouthFest professional development conference when state staff presented the new "STEM-Lit to Go! Iowa" curriculum and provided volunteers and educators with materials for science, technology, engineering, math and literacy programing.
STEM-Lit to Go! Iowa is a new 4-H program that supports the development of STEM and literacy skills for children in kindergarten through third grade. The instructional framework of this informal education program delivers integrated STEM-literacy activities that engage and support positive youth development.
Contributing authors and presenters Sara Nelson, Nicole Hanson, Katie Peterson and Brenda Welch opened the conference workshop with a rocket building activity using paper, tape and plastic straws. The activity demonstrated for staff the value of having STEM play included in STEM education efforts. Staff were encouraged to play with their hand crafted rockets, making guesses as to what would happen when the rockets launched and record data from their experimental play.
“STEM play nurtures children’s natural sense of curiosity and provides opportunities for them to make discoveries, creatively problem solve and collaborate with others,” Iowa 4-H Clover Kids Specialist Nicole Hanson said.
Iowa 4-H created the curriculum to support its 4-H Clover Kids leaders, giving them quality, researched based material that is easy to present to children.
“Research touches every part of this curriculum,” Iowa 4-H STEM lead Sara Nelson said. “We need to provide children with the best possible material we can.”
Volunteer leaders of the Iowa 4-H Clover Kids program are encouraged to use the new curriculum for their groups. Clover Kids meet regularly throughout the year and help children explore and mature in life skills and learning.
“We want to help children make sense of STEM concepts," Nelson said. “With this program, children can engage with STEM activities and learn how to articulate those concepts to others using vocabulary that is introduced throughout the lessons.”
Lesson plans have five core elements and can be covered in 60- to 90-minute sessions. Some lessons can be extended into a longer six-hour, day-long activity.
“Each lesson starts with a read-aloud fiction book that leads into a hands-on STEM play activity,” Nelson said. “From there, children discuss what was happening in the activity and can create another investigation.”
The lessons include fiction and non-fiction text and multiple opportunities to read, write, speak and listen. The elements of the lesson can be rearranged as needed to meet the needs of a classroom or afterschool group.
At the conference, Iowa 4-H provided STEM-Lit to Go! Kits to every Iowa county. Attendees also heard from retired NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson, key note speaker for the conference and author of a children’s book featured in the curriculum.
Each curriculum kit includes a youth activity manual, 22 books and supplies for 12 lessons. Volunteers and educators interested in using the curriculum can contact their local county Extension office. Iowa 4-H plans to share the curriculum nationally and internationally in 2019.
The STEM-Lit to Go! Iowa program is a collaborative effort led by Iowa 4-H staff. The material was made possible by a grant from the Iowa 4-H Foundation with support from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.