Education students offer unique Family STEM Night

In a unique, collaborative effort, 34 University of Wisconsin-Platteville education students teamed with numerous staff members from Highland (Wisconsin) Elementary School to offer Highland Family STEM Night for more than 100 students and their families at the elementary school.

UW-Platteville students are enrolled in the Key Concepts and Characteristics in Middle Level Education course, taught by Dr. Jodean Grunow, senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and academic staff member in the School of Education at UW-Platteville.

The course is required for both middle level and high school pre-service teachers. Consequently, the makeup of the class is varied, including agriculture, technology, chemistry, mathematics, broad field science, English, music, social science and Spanish.

UW-Platteville students prepared for the event by studying the various discipline curricula offered at Highland Elementary School. They conferred with Lisa Bowen, a third-grade teacher at Highland and organizer of the event, to make sure the activities selected were appropriate. Following, they developed materials, assessments, signage and take-home activities. The class had a walk-through on campus before traveling to the event.

“Because of the unique confirmation of the class, the offerings for the Family STEM Night were broad, enticing and evoked much curiosity,” said Grunow. “The event is an outstanding practicum for UW-Platteville students, since they have the opportunity to work with their colleagues, the school staff and administration, students and parents. The Highland Elementary School staff did an excellent job setting up the event and being on hand to guide and assist throughout the evening.”

The evening was enhanced with the addition of Mathematicum, a collection of mathematical puzzles and explorations developed by UW-Platteville’s Department of Mathematics. Drs. Jason Thrun, Barb Barnet, Kevin Haertzen and Mary Paler and Garrett Sprouse, an engineering major at UW-Platteville, made several of the manipulatives and assisted with the Mathematicum.

“We appreciated being invited to the Family STEM Night,” said Thrun. “It gave us a venue to showcase our puzzles.”

The event was successful and beneficial to everyone involved.

“I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at Highland Elementary School for Family Night, but it didn’t take long for me to feel the positivity and excitement stirring around the room,” said Gracie Manka, a senior STEM education major at UW-Platteville from Whitehall, Wisconsin. It was challenging to design an activity that could reach a variety of ages, but I learned that it’s possible and fun to achieve that challenge. My experience there was worth every second and I would love to see more schools creating their own family nights.”

“There were many positive comments about the wealth of explorations, the professionalism of the student presenters and the way the UW-Platteville students were able to make each activity applicable to whatever age child came to their table to participate,” said Grunow. “I am so proud of our university students. Unaccustomed as several of the class members were to such an event, they rose to the occasion with creativity and enthusiasm. The accolades they received are well-deserved.”

“Our students enjoyed exploring many different topics in a hands-on way,” said Bowen. “Our parents were just as engaged as our students. It was a positive experience for all involved.”