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Migrant students immersed in engineering

Migrant students immersed in engineering

Migrant Education offers science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) lessons to 550 students over the summer


TULARE COUNTY – Migrant Education students Brianna and Ruby worked for several weeks this summer at Farmersville High School on a product that could potentially save lives by preventing brain injury.

The young women were part of Migrant Education’s annual Summer STEM Program and they designed a helmet that would keep its wearer safe. The students’ design featured two interlocking pieces that would move to absorb an impact. During several initial tests, a liquid-filled capsule placed inside the helmet leaked upon impact, indicating injury to the wearer. The students returned to their desk to fortify the helmet with additional padding. On their final test, the young engineers strapped their helmet to a mannequin’s head and raised it on a pulley to over seven feet. They then released the mannequin, sending it plummeting to the sidewalk. The result? The capsule in the helmet remained intact, indicating no injury was sustained.

Each summer, Migrant Education students enter the world of engineering with projects that replicate work done by a variety of engineers. Beginning in June, the Migrant Education Program offered its three-week Summer STEM Program at 36 school sites throughout Kings and Tulare counties. The program served nearly 550 students with grade-specific science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) lessons developed by Engineering is Elementary (EIE). Migrant teachers were trained in advance to guide students through real-world applications of engineering principles.

As packaging engineers, students in kindergarten, first and second grades utilized ordinary materials to design and build containers to ensure the health of plants for the consumer market. After addressing the plants’ needs for water, sun and air, the students included in their designs how the packages would be transported and displayed, along with instructions to consumers on how best to care for the plant.

Gloria Davalos, Migrant area administrator, taught the middle school curriculum in the past. “Students are learning that there is a vast number of jobs in the sciences,” she said. “Through the STEM Program, they now know that scientists and engineers were responsible for helping to design or develop nearly all products they can imagine. And year to year, they’re retaining their knowledge of the engineering design process – to identify the need, research the problem, develop solutions, create a prototype, test it, and so on. The STEM Program is providing our students a unique learning experience that’s building their problem-solving skills.”

This year, students in grades 3-5 were introduced to the field of biomedical engineering. They explored how human feet vary in shape, weight and structure, then used this information to design and create shoes. They also measured the range of motion in knees and how knee joints work. After learning about the structures of the knee, they had to design and create a knee brace that would restore movement to a model with an injured knee.

As biomechanical engineers, sixth- and seventh-graders explored the brain and how a concussion can alter its structure. Students learned ways people can protect their heads by using a helmet. To illustrate the effects of concussion on the brain, students, wearing obscured goggles, were challenged to walk an obstacle course and write simple words.

For students unable to attend one of the school-based STEM Programs, Migrant staff members provided in-home math lessons this summer. This in-home program served 750 additional students in 41 districts. Teacher Todd Canterbury, who works in a Special Services Intervention Resource Classroom during the school year, shared that he was able to work with siblings on consumer math lessons prior to the family’s relocation to the Oregon area for work in the fields. “I was able to teach both the brother and the sister the concept of simple and compound interest,” he said, noting that they scored 90% on a post-test given at the end of their lessons. “Before the family left, we were able to go to Bank of the Sierra and open a savings account for the brother and a checking account for the older sister. It felt fantastic to see that they understood the principles of saving and that we could do this for them.” While high school students in Migrant’s in-home program received lessons over three weeks in consumer mathematics, younger students were learning math through grade-appropriate games.

The Migrant Education Program has also been busy organizing Migrant Student Leadership Institutes for middle and high school students. This summer, nearly 140 students will attend one- to two-week programs at CSU Channel Islands, Cal Poly Pomona, UC Santa Barbara, Fresno State, and West Hills College. While the programs vary from campus to campus, Migrant students enjoy instruction in math, language arts, robotics, and sports, while living and dining alongside college students.

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