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Bringing the classroom home

Bringing the classroom home: GO STEM Hub distributes learning kits for rural families

EOU football players assembled STEM kits for rural fourth graders on Oct. 31. Kits included craft supplies, snacks and instructions for at-home science and engineering activities.

Nov. 2, 2020 LA GRANDE, Ore. – Football players, food service workers and on-campus staff at Eastern Oregon University are doing their parts to bring STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education to youngsters in rural Oregon. 

The Greater Oregon STEM Hub at EOU used grant funds from the Oregon Community Foundation to address student needs in regional counties hardest hit by COVID-19. OCF awarded GO STEM $19,950 to construct and distribute 2,000 at-home STEM kits.

GO STEM plans to deliver kits to every fourth grade student in Umatilla and Morrow Counties, as well as key districts and schools that remain virtual or have spikes in COVID cases. Fourth graders were chosen because they are often the youngest students that experience a virtual learning environment. 

“The objective of this project was to involve the fourth grade students in hands-on STEM explorations that are self-directed and can be done with or without teacher guidance,” said GO STEM Executive Director David Melville. 

The kits focus on engineering design and construction with sail cars and parachutes, and geometry with straw structures. GO STEM worked with kit supplier Pitsco Education to replace plastic straws with a paper version, and to include directions in both Spanish and English. The company has since applied these changes throughout its products. 

GO STEM worked with members of EOU’s football team to build the 2,000 STEM kits, while ensuring all involved observed the university’s COVID-19 safety protocols. Student-athletes built boxes, packaged project kits and other materials, and sealed the kits for distribution. 

“Without the help of EOU football players and coaches, we would not be able to get these kits in the hands of the students,” Melville said. 

Another EOU partner, Sodexo, offered additional support. Sodexo provides food services at EOU and supplied Goldfish crackers and granola bars for each STEM kit. 

“Not only are our students needing direct STEM education in their homes, but many of our most at-risk students are also food insecure.” said Program Director for GO STEM Donna Rainboth. “This partnership is win-win for our students!”

Delivering the kits to families in rural counties required a collaboration outside of EOU.

“As you can imagine, getting these kits in the hands of students across eastern Oregon is a huge lift,” said Erin Lair, Director of Teaching and Learning at InterMountain Educational Service District (IMESD). “We are happy to provide our courier service to help distribute the kits. It is just what we do.” 

IMESD is working closely with EOU’s Shipping and Receiving Department in these efforts. 

“Shipping and Receiving has been amazing in helping us move these massive amounts of materials. Not only did they store and move the kit materials, they allowed us to stage and store the kits so they can be picked up by IMESD for delivery,” said Echo Knight, Program Assistant for GO STEM.

By building relationships across university departments, GO STEM leveraged the strengths of students, staff and on-campus partners. 

“Eastern Oregon University and the Greater Oregon STEM Hub continue to build a strong relationship to benefit our region’s students – from preschool to college,” said Dean of the College of Education Matt Seimears. “Together we can and do make a difference.”

Learn more about GO STEM programs at go-stem.org.