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Imagination pops, bubbles over, takes flight at Bridgeport Elementary School

'STEMagination' draws hundreds with hands-on activities, science theme.

TIMES PHOTO: MARK MILLER - Aidan Valdez, a fourth-grader at Bridgeport Elementary School, adds liquid to a graduated cylinder while building a pressure rocket.It was a night of STEMagination at Bridgeport Elementary School on Wednesday, as students and their families enjoyed a plethora of engaging, interactive and educational activities throughout the school after hours.

Parents, school staff, students from Tualatin High School and other volunteers from the community lent their expertise in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), organizing games, activities and experiments that demonstrated STEM concepts. Among many others, attractions included “volcanoes” that erupted when baking soda, vinegar and dish soap were combined inside them; pressure rockets that popped up into the air when enough gas built up inside them; and build-it-yourself paper airplanes that were thrown or slingshotted to see how far they would go and how straight they would fly. Small notepads were handed out as families walked in so that students could record their observations and make notes.

Kim Parson, a literacy specialist and Title 1 coordinator at the school in east Tualatin, said there were close to 20 activities. The Tualatin Public Library, Tigard-Tualatin Family Resource Center and a few local businesses also pitched in.

Maria Nguyen, a parent at the school, said she's been trying to get her son, Joaquin Santos, who is in the fifth grade, to be more interested in science.

“It's pretty cool that they're able to host something like this,” she remarked.

As his son Aidan Valdez, a fourth-grader, made bottle rockets propelled by Alka-Seltzer, Doug Kirkbride said he enjoys science and engineering.

“He's always interested in putting together LEGO projects and different science kits,” Kirkbride said.

Again and again, first-grader Madison Banks threw a paper plane she made with her dad's help in the school library, trying to get it to fly through one of the holes in a large sheet of paper suspended from the ceiling. She ended up collecting 20 “points” from making it through the largest hole twice.

Asked whether she likes airplanes, Madison was effusive.

“Of course I do!” she said without any hesitation. She searched briefly for the right simile before adding, “They're as fast as a speeding cheetah.”

STEMagination tied in nicely with the educational activities Bridgeport Elementary has been offering this year, Parson and school Principal Debbie Ebert explained.

“STEM is a focus of our district this year, so we're really trying to up that across our district,” said Parson.

Ebert and Parson said STEMagination evolved out of a “math night” the school put on last year for families.

“We had some really enthusiastic parents that said, 'Hey, can we help and make this bigger and better?'” Parson said.

“What was great about the event was how much parent involvement we had,” Ebert said.

Parson, who coordinated the event, gave parents a lot of credit for their help.

One of Wednesday's parent volunteers was Ben Mangum, who has three children attending Bridgeport Elementary. Mangum works with semiconductor nano-materials. At STEMagination, he was helping out with a workshop in the cafeteria at which kids learned about the different ways to use magnets, including making audio speakers.

“You can read stuff in a book,” Mangum said, but “it's just more engaging” to see it and do it through hands-on activities.

Ebert and Parson said they plan to bring back STEMagination again next year, once more “bigger and better,” as Parson said.

“It was a big hit,” said Ebert, estimating about 400 people came in for the event. “We had a lot of fantastic feedback from people — kids and parents.”

Parson added, “I had parents stopping me in the building (Thursday) saying what a great time they had with their kids.”

Bridgeport Elementary has also partnered with Daimler Trucks North America this year as part of “STEM Connect,” a program developed by the Beaverton-based nonprofit Business Education Compact. The program aims to link schools with local partners to bring more STEM learning into classrooms, like at Tualatin Elementary School last week, when a team of engineers from Eaton Corp. visited a fifth-grade class for a STEM Connect workshop.

TIMES PHOTO: MARK MILLER - First-grade student Madison Banks, right, watches her paper airplane sail through a target hole in a sheet of paper in the Bridgeport Elementary School library, earning her 10 points in the activity.


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