By: Siri Doddapaneni and Katie Picard
PrairieSTEM is a non-profit organization based in Omaha, Nebraska that focuses on improving critical thinking and creativity in students through their STEAM and SEL outreach. One of Prairie STEM’s current outreach projects is their STEM kits with hands-on, engaging STEAM lessons. Each kit has lessons that are aligned with state and national curriculum standards and pertain to a specific grade, and each contains a lesson plan, activity materials, grade-level standards, and extension activities, along with video links for additional learning. JuSTEMagine volunteers develop ideas for these activities and write out instructions and lessons for the kits.
The STEM kits have different components based on the grade level they reach, ranging from preschool to high school. A favorite among the younger recipients are the themes that Prairie STEM incorporates into their kits, including the “Escape the Winter Blues” and the “Spring into STEM” types. Along with these seasonal themes, Prairie STEM’s activities are attractive to each age, from making art with sunlight for kindergartners to LEGO binary coding for third graders to geologic eon models for seventh grade to environmental factors in ecosystems for high schoolers. As for educational standards, Prairie STEM follows the Nebraska Standards for Science and Mathematics, as well as the Career and Technical Education Model and CASEL standards for social-emotional learning.
Howard Kennedy Magnet School, Oakdale and Rockbrook in Westside 66 Community Schools, and Saint Cecilia Catholic Schools are some of the schools that partner with PrairieSTEM to bring these kits to their students.
“Each student will have one educational STEAM lesson to enrich their students’ STEM education, for their October school STEAM Night.” explained the Prairie STEM website. STEAM nights are where students and their families can experience hands-on STEAM activities provided by Prairie STEM, including Hovercraft Riding, 3D Goggles, Cryptography, and Drone Operation. The STEM kits and STEAM nights also work with SPARKPositivity, a non-profit organization that provides after-school, social emotional enrichment. Each STEM kit has a SEL objective along with the STEAM standards.
Find more information about PrairieSTEM’s STEM kits here: https://prairiestem.org/virtual-steam/