A talk from an author helped kick off the April 27 STEM Festival held at Delano Union School District’s Del Vista Math and Science Academy.

Del Vista principal Ana Ruiz and her staff work to provide fun learning activities for students and parents that surround the academy’s math and science theme, which this event addressed.

According to the school’s science resource teacher Roberta Parnell, the event was scheduled on a weekend afternoon to allow for working families to attend.

“I am convinced it is not enough to get students excited about STEM careers,” Parnell said. “We need parents to see their children in future STEM careers.”

The event began with activities on the playground. The Kern Astronomical Society returned to the school for a Solar Viewing Party, following up on a star gazing held in the fall. Society presenters spoke about what parents and children would see when looking at the sun through a telescope.

There were various STEM activities in which students and parents were urged to try, including make it take it items ranging from planet displays, to making of jewelry using math patterns, to using circuit tape to complete a circuit to turn on a small light. There was also exploration using Cubelet blocks.

School POWER staff also assisted in helping families build rocket launchers using PVC pipe, tape and plastic bottles.

The event also included the academy’s new dragon scientist project, which is an ongoing research project that will be conducted by students. Led at the event by kindergarten teacher Alicia Rios, students studied the effects of the reflective properties of color by measuring asphalt and cement temperatures of painted and unpainted surfaces.

Students were encouraged to make observations of the surfaces and colors and to think of implications of the information they gather. Parnell stated that the information could be used in the future for decisions including where to place tables for events, what clothing is cooler or warmer to wear (depending on the season), what kinds of surfaces and colors are used at the school and how cities can decrease the temperature of the streets.

“Real data, real science, real implications,” Parnell said. “This is an independent project.”

Author Dr. Pascal Lee was the featured speaker for the event. Lee is the author of "Mission: Mars," a book aimed at students ages 9 to 12 discussing possible human exploration of Mars. He is a planetary scientist with the Mars Institute and the SETI Institute, and works at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View (in the San Francisco Bay Area).

Lee spoke and demonstrated the needs of exploring Mars. These included topography and weather, exploring for possible life and the length of time it would take to get to Mars (compared with flying to the moon).

All students and staff from preschool through fifth grade received a copy of Lee’s book, which is the first book he has written. He held personalized book signings after his presentation.

Lee also participated in the research project, testing out the thermometer gun. He also drew his own artwork as part of the Green Screen project and had his photo superimposed into his artwork.

According to Del Vista Vice Principal Leticia Carreno, the event was a success. Staff will discuss the event to help with planning for future STEM activities.

Mike Bledsoe is the director of child development services at the Delano Union School District.

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