- Allegheny Intermediate Unit
Storytime STEM-Packs Deliver Hands-On Learning in Career Readiness for Mon Valley Students
At the beginning of any new endeavor, there are all kinds of things that must be done to ensure it can grow. But once it begins to flourish, new “good” issues arise, like meeting the demand of a popular item.
That’s exactly what happened with the AIU's Storytime STEM-Packs, which are instructional materials packed in a box containing a storybook, facilitator guide and hands-on materials for a related STEM activity. Luckily, there was a partnership to be had within the AIU family that could ramp up production while giving students with special needs valuable work experience.
Since they began packing the orders in September, Mon Valley students have produced more than 200 packs.
“It’s remarkable because there’s no way we could have done that much before,” said Gabriela Rose, science coordinator of the Math and Science Collaborative who has spearheaded the project.
It was a much-needed shift in production, because the Storytime STEM packs have taken off since being introduced in late 2016. From humble beginnings of a couple hundred dollars, tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of packs were distributed last year. Thanks to the support of the National Science Foundation and grants, libraries, schools and other learning centers are quickly making Storytime STEM-Packs a must-have.
Storytime STEM-Packs are a product of the AIU's Math and Science Collaborative that blend popular children’s books with hands-on learning. A facilitator’s guide walks an instructor through the activity. The 20 different packs blend pedagogy and standards with a simplicity that allows librarians, teachers, parents and others to implement STEM concepts to children in grades Pre K-4.
Initially, Storytime STEM-Packs were used at public libraries during summer reading club to counteract the summer slide and keep students engaged and learning. Demand has increased and with that has come many new, year-round users.
In the beginning, it was an all hands on deck operation. Staff members would hustle to assemble boxes to fulfill orders. As those orders began to pour in, it became apparent that the workload needed to be shifted. Through a connection made by AIU interim executive director Rosanne Javorsky, staff from the collaborative met with staff at the AIU's Mon Valley School. The workload moved to the better-equipped Mon Valley warehouse, where skilled students awaited the challenge of real-world work experience. It was a win-win situation.
“Assembling Storytime STEM packs gives students a hands-on opportunity to practice the skills needed to work in a warehouse or distribution center,” said Mon Valley trainer Michelle Holsopple. “They work as a team to pack the boxes and prepare them for shipment. We appreciate that Gabriela trusts our students with the assembly of the STEM packs. The confidence she places in them has helped them to become more confident in their abilities.”
Each pack is unique to a popular story. Some packs include a set number of products that need counted, such as pasta wheels, craft sticks or cotton balls. Others have items such as beads and an abacus.
Students must work off a packing sheet to fulfill the order which is then test for quality control. Once quality is ensured, boxes are stacked five high for easy handling, wrapped for protection and readied for delivery. A van shuttles new and completed orders between the school and the AIU's Central Office. It's a win-win situation for everyone.
“It couldn’t be more perfect,” said Ms. Rose. “It’s really smooth.”
For more information regarding Storytime STEM-Packs, click here.
-Story and photo by Eddie Phillipps