Challenge 1: Community STEM

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The basis of this experience is inspired by the natural
inclusivity of children; race, background, gender, and religion are rarely of
consideration when a child chooses to play with a new friend. This experience
aims to foster the same level of acceptance in adults, through a similar, fun,
and strategically planned series of events.

The event is coordinated across schools of a given city,
with the aim of bringing students and parents of different backgrounds and
cultural groups together. Students across schools receive a ‘token’ for their
first free event. Depending on the size of the school district and the city/
town, one or two students from each school, along with one parent of each
student, will be mixed together for the workshop. The workshops will host
between 20-30 students and their parents, and the event features three main
components.

The first component is the activity and learning workshop for kids.
Children will participate in a workshop or lab with instructors who teach fun STEM
concepts (physics, chemistry, engineering, etc.) through interactive
activities. This component is a little like a science or art camp. For example,
the topic for one event may be magnetism and electricity. Children will be
divided into groups of 3-5, and will learn about the topic, while playing with
magnets, building compasses, and doing other interactive learning activities.

At the same time as the children’s workshop is going on, the
parents will be guided into their own workspace, where they also participate in
an interactive workshop on the same topic, but at a higher level. Instructors
will guide the parents through activities which introduce how a STEM concept
relates to their life. This workshop covers more advanced, but relevant,
topics. Parents will also be separated into groups of 3-5 (matching the same
groups as their children), and a main project challenge will be completed as a
team.

Both groups will produce something at the end of the
workshops, and will then be brought back together. The products from both
workshops will relate to one another, and by combining the work of parents and
children, a final experiment or competition will be carried-out as the third,
and final event component. The matching parent and children groups will then
work together to execute the final challenge.

There are a number of underlying intentions at play with
this event. The first is the integration of students and parents from different
schools. The first event will be free for all students, perhaps subsidized by
the school board or government, or else just used as a way to gain momentum and
interest in the events. The chosen groups may be strategically selected to ensure diverse participants,
with students and parents from different schools around the city.

In this activity, the fourth wall is somewhat like the
barrier between parents connecting themselves to their children’s activities. Oftentimes,
kids may go to a science or art camp, but the parents have little connection to
what their children have learned. By engaging both parties in the same topic,
this can lead to ongoing conversation and engagement about the learning and
activities.

The event also provides a mutual goal amongst parents of all
different backgrounds. All parents want their children to learn and have fun,
so they will engage in the activity to ensure just that. If there were no
children involved, an adult science class may lose participant interest if they
get frustrated or disengaged. With their children completing a related
activity, and then all participants engaging together, there is an additional
motivation (besides fun) to complete the challenge.

The topics of STEM for the workshop are selected as engaging
activities which are relatable and interesting across a diversity of individuals.
These are topics that can be taught in a fun, engaging way, and do not
discriminate against backgrounds or social groups. With all parents working
towards a common goal, they connect in a safe and fun environment with their
children. The intention is to make people more aware of ways in which they are
connected than how they are different.

An additional motivation for this idea is the lack of
engaging adult classes available for science-based activities. Cooking classes,
painting classes, book clubs, and all sorts of other specific adult activities
are becoming increasingly popular. Science is a topic that many adults enjoyed
while in school, is highly relevant in everyday life, but is often forgotten
and not recognized. Simple everyday objects
and activities, like driving a car, riding an elevator, and cooking a
steak, involve interesting science-based concepts. The relevance to everyday
life will make this activity more engaging and the lack of similar programs
will increase the appeal.  

The first poster is intended as advertising material for the
event (aimed towards the parents, perhaps sent home with their child), and the second
describes an example of one of the event activities.

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