STEM Classes for Children
in San Rafael's Canal District

by Ealan (Yilan) Jiang

Introduction:

CiN’s STEM for Children aims to bring science, technology, engineering and math to children from low-income families in the local communities and abroad. CiN’s instructors consist of enthusiastic and knowledgeable high school students that are dedicated to promoting young children’s interests in STEM subjects through tutoring and interesting projects. At the beginning of 2014, CiN members brought STEM projects to the Pickleweed Community Center in San Rafael, CA as a team called iGirls. We play with two groups, lower-grade children and upper-grade children. Every two weeks, we work with one of the groups. Up to now, our team has achieved our primary goal and attempts to do better. 

iGirls:

Members for the spring semester of 2014:

Linda Bu

Ivy Cheng

Ealan Jiang

Vicky Lin

Angela Lo

Margaret Xu

Cheryl Yuan

Doris Yue

Carys Zhao

Members for the spring semester of 2015:

Vicky Lin

Ealan Jiang

Doris Yue

Carys Zhao

Candy Tang

Linda Bu

Nicole Zhu

Julia Qin

Members for the fall semester of 2015:

Ealan Jiang

Cheryl Yuan

Vicky Lin

Doris Yue

Carys Zhao

Linda Bu

Mia Ma

Candy Tang

Julia Qin

Members for the fall semester of 2016:

Vicky Lin

Ealan Jiang

Doris Yue

Carys Zhao

Candy Tang

Nicole Zhu

Julia Qin

Yvette Yu

Members for the spring semester of 2016:

Vicky Lin

Ealan Jiang

Doris Yue

Carys Zhao

Julia Qin

Yvette Yu

Melody Yao

Linda Bu

Curriculum:

  • 2014.1.24-2014.3.21 Science and Math Projects:

On January 24th 2014, 9 girls set out from San Domenico School right after school to the Pickleweed Community Center with huge excitement and tension. What if those children do not like us? What if they hate the science project and think it is boring? To our surprise, after our brief introduction, those children applauded actively and smiled at us innocently. Their physical behaviors gave us everything we wanted to know! Then we began explaining the experiment about structural force to them. When we asked which kind of structure could hold the most weight, almost all children in the class raised their hands. Some of them said triangle, the other disagreed and believed rectangle was the best structure. After long discussion, we broke into four groups and each two of us were assigned to 3 children. We began doing the experiment and every child was very happy and took initiatives. In my group, all three children did a great job. We even made a pyramid with rectangles, circles and triangles. Their creativity and imagination really impressed me. When we were competing which group’s design could hold more weight, a little boy in my group called Angel turned back and told me confidently, “We’re gonna win!” His saying moved me. In my life, have I ever been so confident and certain to myself? I don’t think so. They believe themselves; they have passions to everything around them and they smile to everybody. At the end of this experiment, they all learned that circle was the one that can hold the most weight because the weight can be divided into every surface.

After the experiment, we went to gym with them and played a game called “Sharks & Seaweeds”. When they learned that we didn’t know how to play, they started to teach us how to play the game patiently in details. Though we only played one round but it was super fun. I had never played happily and actively like this since I entered high school. I realized that not only we’re helping those children, but also those children were helping us. They’re teaching us how to live happily, relieved our stress, and be confident to ourselves. I would never forget so many joyful faces surrounding me in the gym.

After our first successful scientific experiment about weight, we further explained to those children about force by teaching them how to make a paper rocket. During this event, those children’s high energy and enthusiastic attitudes inspired all of us, “They tried different methods to make the best rocket that can fly the farthest. Some of them tried to make rockets with different shapes and other tried with different sizes. Also the kids painted the rocket with various colors and patterns in order to make the rockets stand out during the competition”(Ivy Cheng'15). After making rockets, we headed to the gym to see whose rocket could fly the farthest. The children’s passion and smiles continuously impressed me. At the end, they learned the reason why the rocket could fly was that there was air forces that could pull the rockets up.

Our last scientific project was to teach them how to make harmonica and kazoo. After every child finished making the instruments, we invited all groups to perform their music to the rest of the class. Kids in my group were first so quiet and shy that they didn’t want to perform the music. I learned that I needed to be much more talkative and help them to design the musics. At last, we did a great job by performing our super creative music. Other children also played a great music this time, “Andy, Kevin and Kara were good at making different types of creative music with harmonica and kazoo. I hoped they could keep their creativity and maintained their outgoing and passionate attitude when facing challenges in their future lives”(Angela Lo'15). At last, the children learned the reason why harmonica and kazoo can make sound when we blew.

  • 2014.4.4-2014.5.25 Technologies (Robotics)


“With the efforts of our January bake sale and other fundraising events, Children In Need Club was able to purchase two new “Lego Mindstorms EV3” sets. Before the purchase, we reviewed a lot of information and finally chose this one because of its great design for education”(Jacqueline Liang). The Lego enables our team to enhance our STEM projects as well as to to give our members who were involved in robotics club a great opportunity to show their talents.

On April 4th 2014, we brought the Lego with us to the Pickleweed Community Center. As soon as the children saw the Lego, they smiled and shouted enthusiastically, “Are we gonna play the Lego? Are we gonna make a robot? Please tell me “yes”!” Like Cheryl Yuan, one of our team members, said, “We still remembered at the first meeting when we announced that we would be working on LEGO sometimes and the kids just went nuts!” Their excitement shows those children's love toward advanced technologies, just like some other children living in wealthy families. In order to effectively teach those children how to make a high-level robots, we first divided the whole project into four parts with two volunteers in charge of each part, and then we practiced how to establish it on our own during our team meetings before the actual volunteering session. “We recorded down the time it took for us to complete the robot, tested it and we tore those apart to count every single piece that made up the part so that nothing was missing (Cheryl Yuan). I remember one time we had our team meeting from 9 pm to 10:30 pm for this robot. I really appreciated all members in our team. They were the best!

On that day, there were two to three children under a single section who were responsible for one of the four parts and the whole group was divided into four. The group that worked with Cheryl and I was doing it very slowly and later we learned that we needed to provide more help in order to guide them. After about 30 minutes, we built up the robot successful, but one thing went wrong. The robot could not move even when we changed the batteries. Unfortunately, not everyone got to play around with the robot but we promised them that next time everyone would have the opportunity to try it out. Even though we had some little problem with the robot this time, the kids still gained a lot and had a great time with us. They learned how to work together more coordinately and efficiently with the help of LEGO. Furthermore, our members also learned a lot, “To myself, I always thought that boys would be much more talented in building robotics than girls and was a bit worried about that girls would not fully participate in this project. In fact, the girls also showed their full passion and strong operational ability to build up parts by themselves with only the instruction booklet”(Carys Zhao).


  • 2014.9.12-2014.12.9 Technologies and Engineering (Programming)


After we came back from summer vacation, we decided to teach a new subject about programming to the children at the Pickleweed Community Center. In order to bring some knowledge about technology and engineering to those children from low-income family, we decided to teach programming through iPad and Mac which were brought by us.

On September 12nd 2014, we started our first day of programming lessons. When we got there, we first played a Name game to get more familiar with each other in the gym. To my surprise, when I asked them “Is there anyone whose was here last semester and remembered what we made together?” Almost everyone who’s here last semester raised his or her hands. Some activities they mentioned I didn’t even remember. During the game, I made a mistake, I called a little boy “Wiky” and then actually his name is “Willy”. So after I called him three times, he said, “I’m not Wilky. She’s Vicky. My name is Willy.” Name is pretty important for us to get along well with each other.

After that, we played “Shark & Seaweed”, which is a game we played at the first time we came here last semester. It was pretty exciting and all of our members took part in. Finally we taught them how to design a 3D bracelet online. All of those children were amazed by iPad. However, there was a little problem about the website. We could design a bracelet but we cannot order it. So after taught them how to design a bracelet, we decided to pick their address and help them to order it when we returned to school. At the last ten minutes, we taught those children how to use some basic apps like note, safari and some educational games. That was a great start!

After our first try about technology, we decided to search for new programming lessons so that those kids can have a deeper understanding about what they’re really doing. Finally with the help of our instructor, we decided to use a website called SCRATCH. On that website, kids could learn to make any kinds of programming like an animated crab or a talking pig. During our volunteering time, a boy in my group finally made a dancing puppy with hip hop music. He told me he’s so proud of himself. All of those children are creative and smart. I really hope they can get more opportunity to learn what they’re interested in. We’ll continue doing our best to help those children!

  • 2015.01.16-2015. 05.22 Science and Engineering

    At the beginning of 2015, we continued to organize several scientific experiments. In addition to using LEGO products, we bought four new sets of Electronic Snap Circuits, which consist of over 60 pieces including a resistor, a slide switch, and snap wires. The goal of these circuits is to teach the kids about electricity. At the start of the first lesson, I brought in the huge box containing all of the circuit pieces. Several boys ran up to me excitedly, curious as to what new projects I had in store for them. The first thing I asked them is what they thought electricity was. One of the children, Angel, said "Electricity is used for refrigerators and microwaves so that I can eat a lot of food!" I then explained to them that electricity is actually a type of energy that flows from one place to another. For an electric current to occur, there must be a complete circuit, which is usually made by linking electrical components together with pieces of wire cable. There are countless ways to create circuits, but the Electronic Snap Circuits kit provides us the tools to create roughly 300 different circuits. During the lesson, most of the kids created their own electronic circuits instead of following the instructions. Their creativity was not only impressive but exciting, as the ultimate goal of our outreach program is to cultivate creativity, integrity, and passion in the children of the Canal District.

  • 2015. 09. 04-2016. 5. 27 Science and Biosecurity

    During my senior year, iGirl continued to make kaleidoscopes, robots, and airplanes as projects to teach children more about science. In addition, we started a new course in biosecurity, with the help of Stanford Biosecurity. The goal of this new coarse was to teach the children basic concepts concerning infectious diseases, and how to prevent contracting them. On October 19th, 2015, CiN organized a field trip for the children in the Kids' Club to visit Stanford University's campus. There, Dr. Milana Boukhman Trounce, an Emergency Department doctor at Stanford Hospital, gave a short talk about what biosecurity is, why it's important, and how to enter the healthcare industry. Even though these children had no idea what biosecurity was, they were eager to learn all about it under the careful guidance of Dr. Boukhman. 

    To begin our biosecurity course, we conducted simple water purification experiments. I built a simple water filtration center to show the children how to reuse and recycle dirty water. The children were instantly curious as to the materials involved in the filter, wanting to learn how to build their own filters. Curiosity is always the best teacher. I showed them that three layers are involved in my filter: gravel, sand, and active charcoal. Each of these layers is included to filter different things. The gravel layer is meant to filter large particles from the water. The sand layer is meant to remove smaller particles that the gravel misses. And lastly, the activated charcoal is meant to remove bacteria and some chemicals. Finally, the water passes through filter paper, which is the last step to making the water safe to drink. This method is also how the state purifies water.

    After the water purification experiments, we started to introduce biosecurity to the children through simple videos, drawings, games and experiments. For example, our club bought a Bacterial Growth Set to show the kids how bacteria grow in a plate. They were surprised to see that they could cotton swab microscopic bacteria and fungi cells from various objects such as teeth, phones, tables and toilets. After they swabbed the cells and put them in the plates, they placed the plates upside down at 84-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The bacterial colonies will have grown and be visible within a week. One of the children, Kevin, told me that he is "excited but...also afraid of seeing those bacteria growing in the plate." I reassured him that he doesn't need to be afraid because as he learns more about harmful bacteria and more about biology in general, he will have enough knowledge to stay safe.

    Currently, we're introducing them to various types of infectious diseases and how to prevent them. We will begin with the most standard example, the flu. We will then cover Ebola, SARS, HIV and Zika.

About me:


Ealan (Yilan) Jiang, 
2015 CiN STEM Coordinator, 
San Domenico School

The STEM project in Pickleweed Community Center provides me a great opportunity to deal with plenty of social problems I’m going to face in the future. For example, I need to learn what is the best way for me to get along well with different kinds of kids, what type of teaching style is the best way to help them learn more, what can I do to make all members collaborate together, etc. If you ask me to name two things I learned from this project, I would speak out without any hesitation, “Responsibility and Love”. In the first semester, I didn’t feel much responsibility because Ivy and Margaret dealt with everything. It was not until this semester after I led this team that I realized the duty and responsibility that comes with leading the team such as transportation, lesson plans and arranging meetings. All of those obligations tell me that it is really hard to become a great leader! I really appreciate for this unique opportunity and all those people who are helping me. I might not yet an extremely great leader, but I promise I would be a responsible one! Another value I learned is love. All those children in Pickleweed Community Center smile to us as we teach them knowledge. They are passionate. They love each other; they love games; they love new people; they love knowledge; more importantly, they love their current lives. They know what they're living for. Do you know what you're living for?