Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Start

I want to write a short introduction to this blog.  I have been volunteering in the local elementary school since my first child started there 4 years ago.  I started out helping in math class once a week for 3 hours.  Because of my love of art, I started volunteering as an Art Print volunteer the following year.  In this program, the volunteers take a print of famous piece art into the classroom, talk about the print and the artist with the students, and hopefully do a fun activity to help them remember that piece of art.  It was a lot of fun and enjoying art as I do, I enjoyed coming up with an appropriate activity around the print or artist and helping the kids with that activity.  Later, I helped with Kid Pan Alley.  This arts program brings local singer/songwriters to the classroom to help kids express themselves through songwriting and performance.  In the meantime, I had an "Aha" moment.  Why were there volunteer art programs but no volunteer science programs in the school?

I left my job as an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering after becoming pregnant with my first child ten years ago.  My husband was chair of his department at the time and our lives were busy managing our work schedules, plus we lived on a farm and that kept us busy, too.  I thought adding a child into an already busy life would be too stressful, so I decided to stay home.  I am lucky that I had that option.  Since leaving the engineering school, I have done little with my engineering education, but with our second child starting to school three year ago, I decided it was time to do something a little closer to my field.  What better thing to do than bring a science program into the school?

What do you do when you are looking for something you know nothing about?  That's right, you Google it.  I googled elementary education science programs and found several that teach the teachers science, severals camps for summer enrichment for gifted kids, but after lots of looking I found only one program that brought science into the schools.  This program which is in California  is called Science is Elementary, you can find them on Facebook.  The founder Tzipor Ulman is/was a stay at home mom much like myself with two children and an underused education (Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry).  She looked around and say how lacking hands-on science was in the California school systems and started this program.  In her program, they bring science experiments to the schools through volunteers in Silicon Valley.  Tzipor at our last communication was bringing her program into 19 different elementary schools in the area in grades K and 1.

I have to say, that my interests and talents lie in the area of developing curricula and teaching the kids (although maybe some of my former university students may dispute that).  In any case, my talents do not lie in the area of fund raising and volunteer recruitment.  I have relied so far on my connections in the local university to recruit university students from engineering to come to the school to help with the program.  My husband has been funding our program through the things that I buy at he local hardware store or the grocery store, or that I pick up on our farm.  This worked well when I was working only with Kindergarten and First grade.  However, now I am going into the school to reach Kindergarten through fourth grade and now are relying on parent volunteers and I am starting to have to think about raising money (buying 120 motors for fourth grade projects is not cheap).  I will keep you posted on how I handle this issue.

Over the course of the next few months, I will be presenting some of the things that we do in class, comments from teachers, students and volunteers, and photos from activities.  I will post the write-ups so that you can look at them and see what may work in your school.  Please join me and comment on our program and how we can make it better.