Monday, August 15, 2016

A Day to Play with STEM

By C.J. Hirschfield

By now, pretty much everyone knows that STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, and that mastery of STEM spells success in school and beyond.

STEM jobs in the East Bay pay well –$80,000 a year or more, even without an advanced degree.  And jobs are plentiful: No other region in the nation can boast three national laboratories – Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia – as well as a cross-section of manufacturing companies that use robot operators, 3-D printers, software designers, researchers, and programmers. What’s more, jobs in STEM are only expected to increase.

But many young people in our community are not prepared to take these good jobs. It’s a challenge that East Bay business leaders have been working on for decades, particularly directing their focus on school-age kids.

The trouble is, by the time kids are taught STEM subjects in high school, or even in elementary school, it may be too late. We need to start much younger, getting kids excited about math and science during their pre-kindergarten years.

And – in case you were wondering – that’s where Fairyland fits in.


Thursday, Aug. 18, Fairyland will host its first-ever MATH AND SCIENCE FAIRyland to introduce the joys of STEM to the pre-K crowd.


When we were approached by Darien Louie of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance (East Bay EDA) to partner on a “Math and Science FAIRyland” day, we jumped at the opportunity. After all, our 10-acre park, with its bubbles, animals and gardens, invites toddlers to explore all sorts of learning.

And so, joined by 11 EDA members – businesses, nonprofits and government agencies – we’ll be hosting this first-ever event Thursday, Aug. 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It’s never too early to introduce STEM to children,” says Darien.  “The earlier they are introduced, the more it becomes a natural and valued part of their learning.”

We were pleased to hear why EDA chose Fairyland to host the event: Our brand is trusted by parents and caregivers, and our mission acknowledges that all play is learning ... and fun.

And there will definitely be fun at the Math and Science FAIRyland event, in the form of playful, interactive games and activities that are easy to replicate at home.

Here are some of the event sponsors and the activities they’re planning:

Aduro Biotech:  experimenting with homemade play-dough and food coloring.
Bayer: paper chromatography experiments.
Community Resources for Science (“helping teachers build enthusiasm and bring meaningful science learning experiences to life in classrooms”): exploring colors with household items.
Port of Oakland: water cycle-in-a-jar.
The Clorox Company:  the science behind everyday materials.
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital: shape matching.

Kids who participate will go home with lots of fun, free goodies, including sunglasses, mini soccer balls, pencils, color-changing cups, books, and rulers.

Support from Fairyland and other sponsors of the event will enable children from underserved communities to attend the event, in addition to the park’s regular visitors.

We couldn’t be more excited about this new partnership. Because the irony is that we know that our low-tech, high touch environment can actually produce adults who are excited to learn— and we think that excitement can lead them to jobs in STEM.

We hope you’ll join us Aug. 18 in our Teddy Bear Picnic Area for a chance to experiment with math and science under the guidance of skilled and enthusiastic professionals. Our Math and Science FAIRyland may be our first partnership with East Bay EDA, but we hope it won’t be the last.

-- C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children's Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation's first storybook theme park.




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