On a cold Friday evening in mid December, as the sun was setting over Longs Peak, the parking lot at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Valley Schools was quickly filling with cars. As families pulled in and parked, young students excitedly hopped out, heading into the building for a night of hands-on learning activities and fun.
For three hours during the Innovation Center’s first Community STEM Night, preschool through fifth grade students from around the district excitedly engaged with their families in coding, engineering, creating, and science activities designed to empower them to take ownership of their learning, adapt to new environments, and connect to their world.
The event featured 53 stations, spread throughout the first floor of the building, with activities ranging from robotic balls and blocks to circuits, string art, and tumble tracks. The building’s Makerspace offered stations for preschool through first graders, with the remaining stations for all ages scattered throughout common areas. The ST. VRAINNOVATION Future-Ready Innovation Lab was parked outside, offering students who made the short trek the opportunity to create a holiday-themed animated gif.
“When young students engage in these activities, they are gaining exposure to essential skills,” says Kristen Brohm, the Innovation Center’s STEM Coordinator. Those essential skills, Brohm says, set students up for success in the future.
The Innovation Center is usually host to the district’s oldest learners – high school students engaged in rigorous coursework, exploring career interests, or earning an industry certification. But the target audience for Community STEM Night was the district’s youngest learners, encouraging them to design, experiment, build, and invent alongside their peers, teachers, and families.
“Everything that we are doing, starting with our three-year olds, is to help create a mindset so when students get to a point where they can be truly independent and make their own choices and work with industry, they have the skill set necessary to move beyond just content and engage at a deeper level,” Brohm says.
With more than 100 families cycling through the Innovation Center during the event, the evening offered a unique and engaging learning environment outside of a traditional classroom that the Innovation Center hopes to use as a model for similar events in the future.