On the evening of April 28, the Salt River Elementary School (SRES) and the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) held their second annual Liftoff Science Carnival, also known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Family Night, at the elementary school. Families came to the carnival to experience the science of flight. Science games and craft tables were set up throughout the basketball court and playgrounds of the school.
Companies and organizations presented exhibits, and many of the school classes showed off their science experiments. Ernie Reyes Jr., an actor, martial artist and stunt performer who is also vice-president of Dignity Kids, brought a team to the event to teach several martial-arts techniques.
“The event was designed for parents and their students to learn about STEM principles by engaging in the engineering design process and hands-on activities led by SRES faculty and volunteers,” said Lynette Charlie, first-grade instructor and STEM coordinator for SRES. Many families, children, volunteers, faculty and visitors were a part of this event.
Charlie, along with the SRES Science Leadership Team consisting of kindergarten teacher Marcella Valencia, third-grade teacher Anissa Bark, fifth-grade teacher Keith Idso and culture teacher Teresa Gonzales, wanted the students to know the authenticity of what they’re learning in science and how it connects to the real world outside of their classrooms.
The goal was to open the door to STEM experiences. “We wanted the youth to explore, imagine and be a part of the STEM world and make it come to life,” said Charlie. STEM concepts are key to advancing the future, as they are the core foundation of takings things apart, rearranging them and making them better.
“Our students here in the Salt River Community will be a part of that world,” said Charlie. “Science can be hard, but that shouldn’t be a barrier. Opening the door to these STEM experiences plants the desire to be a part of the scientific world and a desire to work harder.”
“Our STEM Family Night was a huge success,” said SRES principal Erik Haarstad. “Based on families who signed in when entering, we had 355 people attending this event. If you include the guests, volunteers and staff, the number present exceeded 400.”
One of the biggest attractions of the night was a helicopter landing and take-off on school property, courtesy of Canyon State Aero. Pilot and flight instructor Adam Such flew onto the school campus in a Hughes 269 helicopter.
“I actually got my start when I was in the sixth grade. A helicopter pilot landed his helicopter at my school assembly, and I was hooked,” said Such. “I told myself, ‘That is what I want to do.’ At this age [elementary school], the kids soak up the environment around them. So when I met with [SRES instructor] Dawn Meyers, she asked me if I could fly out and give the kids a chance to experience what I experienced as a child. I have to continue the cycle of giving back to the community and inspire the next generation to hopefully become pilots, as I did.”
Charlie said without the support of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Education Board and Tribal Council, the helicopter landing would not have been possible.
The second big attraction was the Great Paper Airplane Family Challenge, hosted by the SRES second- and third-grade teachers. Seventy students from kindergarten through sixth grade took the challenge to see whose paper airplane could fly the farthest, trying to win prizes. The engineering and design process was the key to success in this event.
Game booths highlighting the engineering of flight were hosted by the classes from kindergarten through sixth grade, SRES Computer Technology, the SRES Culture Department, the Early Childhood Education Center, the F.A.C.E. Program and the school’s STEM after-school club. Visitors hosting hands-on activities included the Arizona Science Foundation, Arizona Science Center, Arizona State University Drone Club, Orbital Sciences Corp., the Ninety-Nines organization of women pilots, Dignity Kids, Inc., and the Civil Air Patrol, who brought a flight simulator.
Hot dogs were provided by the STEM Science Leadership Team and cooked by the Salt River Fire Department. The ECEC provided shaved ice and the SRES Culture Department provided the popcorn. Bashas’ donated water, Southwest Airlines donated small pilot wings, and Sky Harbor International Airport supplied bags and balloons.
“This event was not possible without the work of teachers, instructional assistants, volunteers, administration and support of the Salt River Education Board and Tribal Council—thank you,” said Charlie. “Those involved in organizing and contributing to our STEM Family Night opened the door to a world of science for our families and children. You brought the scientific world to their fingertips, and as a STEM program, that is our focus."