If you were driving past Roosevelt Elementary on April 27th, you would know something fun and exciting was happening just beyond the school doors.
Outside, a long line of excited parents and curious siblings stood preparing to see the projects the Roosevelt students had been working on for months. Jen Cooper, the principal, and other members of the staff welcomed everyone into the community space, making sure everyone was comfortable and ready, with popcorn in hand as they crossed into the building.
“Because of COVID, it has been hard to showcase their [the students’] learning. This is just the first of many opportunities to come in!” she would later share with a packed library full of parents.
As families moved from classroom to classroom watching student presentations, there was an undeniable energy of curiosity and joy throughout the school.
In one classroom, a young kindergartner shared how visiting the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium had given her a new understanding of how animals live and interact with each other.
As part of her project, she researched different types of penguins and their environments, designing a model zoo enclosure that would have everything for their survival. Standing behind her model, she informed the audience of what penguins eat, what they need in their habitat, and how they survive in different temperatures. At the end of her presentation, a parent who had walked up midway through asked “What do they eat?”
The kindergarten student smiled big and then shouted excitedly, “They eat krill!”
Just outside the classroom, another student made his way with his family toward his own presentation. As he bounced by Alejandra Soria, TAF’s STEMbyTAF Transformation Coach at Roosevelt, she smiled at him and asked, “Are you ready to present?”
“Si!” came the first grader’s exuberant response as he turned the corner into his room.
TAF welcomed Roosevelt Elementary into its TransformED program in late 2019, just before the COVID Pandemic began. Because of restrictions on in-person events, this was Roosevelt’s first ever Presentation of Learning hosted outside of school hours and families were excited to see what their kids had been working on.
For months, students had been working diligently to explore and solve community-centered driving questions like How do we meet a local want or need? and How can we as historians analyze Washington’s history to tell its complete story? With the question as their guide, they researched and tested their ideas, heard from subject-matter experts, and prepared to share publicly with the community.
This is a core tenet of the STEMbyTAF model: our students’ communities are centered and emphasized as an integral part of the collaborative learning process. Teaching them to use their voice, and take all the yhave learned and applying it areas that they want to improve for their community. From the beginning of projects to the very end, students are invited to think about how real-world problems impact them, who is already doing work to solve those problems, and how they can be part of the process.Rather than just learning within the walls of a classroom, this kind of instruction brings teachers and students together with meteorologists, community activists, zookeepers, and lawyers to make a real difference in our local communities. This provides a learning environment where education is led by students, and adults are the facilitators as they learn together in a way that is exciting, culturally relevant, and equitable.
At Roosevelt, the excitement of this learning process was on full display.
“The energy is jubilant!” Alejandra Soria said at the end of the night. “We are super excited that we had so many families turn out, and that the students were excited to show off their work.”
And as Principal Jen said, this is just the first of many to come.