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Hour of Code Challenge Inspires Green Elementary School “Science Safari”

December 16, 2015

DSC_0647The week of December 7 – 13 was recently recognized as a moment to feature an Hour of Code. The week was a global celebration that incorporated a focus on computer science, logic and creativity for youth around the globe. Not surprisingly, the Dublin Unified School District took advantage of this opportunity and courtesy of an invitation we put a spotlight on some of the activities that occurred at John Green Elementary School.

The PFC leadership at Green elected to further enhance this week by also offering a “Science Safari” event for the entire student population, hosted last Wednesday evening in the Green Multi-Purpose Room. The Hour of Code week was driven by Mr. Garrett Fogel (certificated staff) and Principal Joe Romagna. But the added program succeeded with the spirit of cooperation through the PFC and specifically Director of Programs, Carolyn Caballero.

DSC_0639As is the case with every growing Dublin elementary school site, nights like these need to be setup out to ensure total student flow and participation. On Wednesday, students with a last name starting with the letters A-M were invited to enter from 6:00 – 7:00 PM and those with names with last names that began with N or later could participate starting at 7:00 PM.

Needless to say, an enthusiastic group of students and parents were present to enjoy hands-on science stations. Some of the activities involved experience with electricity, fossil excavation and a full bubble tube, among other activities. We reached out to PFC Board member, Carolyn Caballero to understand the formation and essence of the Science Safari Night at Green. At Green Elementary, please describe the Hour of Code experience for students from K-5. 

DSC_0627Carolyn Caballero: “At Green Elementary, please describe the Hour of Code experience for students from K-5.  Teachers run it in their class and can do it multiple days but the goal is to do it at least 1 hour this entire week. Kids log on to the and go through the tutorials provided and some do it with buddy classrooms, some do it 3x this week.  Most popular seems to be Star Wars but students can do tutorials like Minecraft, Frozen and Angry Birds.  We have a total of 24 classrooms participating including 1 kindergarten class, 1 Special Development, 2 first grade, 3 2nd grade, all of 6 3rd grade classrooms, all of 4th grade (5 classrooms) and all of 5th grade(6 classrooms).   I’ve talked with several teachers in the past week and they all say the kids LOVE it!  5th grade teacher Jeanette Rosin said the kids “sailed” through the tutorials.  3rd grade teacher Mrs. Jakubowicz loved how it also gave her a lot of teachable moments like teaching angles (as in moving the characters diagonally in a 45 degree angles).”  What was the goal of incorporating the Science Safari and how would you judge its success?

Caballero: “From the survey the PFC has taken last year of parents, the majority or common thread was seeking to see more STEM-related activities.  So we tried to add or enhance by adding this interactive science museum called Science Safari.  Unfortunately, we have no metrics to measure this except for simple anecdotal measures.  The main barometer is if kids had fun and learned something while having fun and based on the last night, the kids and parents enjoyed themselves.  This is meant to kick off our efforts to try to start a STEM initiative.  While it wasn’t the main goal, the event also generated a lot of much needed volunteer interests in the PFC’s additional upcoming STEM initiatives that I am also working on with various volunteers.”  It would appear that many people contributed to this event.  Please list those that you would like to acknowledge for their contributions.

Caballero: “The following volunteers helped during the events:  Ashwini Wagle, Amit Kausal,Queenie Wang, Peng Zhou, Helena Jin, Brian Jin, Dennis Hong and Gloria Cheng.  Our Vice Principal is our faculty representative that night and Carmen Martinez helped me with some prework by helping evaluate the vendor.” In the spirit of promoting STEM, please tell us about the upcoming Engineering Festival Night planned for March. 

Caballero: “This is an engineering festival by Lawrence Hall of Science.  Topics are Hydraulics, Wind Turbines, Circuitry and Structures and stations include wobble bots, bridges, Keva planks and bionix blocks.”

“If you don’t mind mentioning this as well because Mrs.Katie Gonzalez (1st Grade teacher) always volunteers to add extra science enrichment for our school.  With her help, we have assemblies on Astronomy and Rainforest and she also organized upcoming Wizard’s Lab which is really our main science event this January (again the “S” in STEM).  We are big fans of Lawrence Hall of Science and it is super fun and educational.  Parents look forward to this Family Science Night event, which includes hands-on exhibits where students explore the almost magical properties of matter and energy, participate in high-voltage and subzero experiments, and figure out how things really work in the fun, fact and phenomenon-filled world of physics.”

So, it was a fascinating look into an elementary school site that choose to take full advantage of the Hour of Code Week by enhancing and extending experience of all of its students. It was a pleasure to witness this positive night for all of the families that elected to come out on a Wednesday. Clearly, the appetite for learning STEM-based concepts is alive and well within DUSD. We would like to acknowledge Carolyn Caballero and all of her colleagues at Green for hosting a successful event.

Related story: Dublin High School junior Hania Guiagoussou was profiled by Google in a CS Education Week blog post: My coding journey.

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