Iowa STEM Scale-up Participants Excited about Storytime STEM-packs

In 2023, Storytime STEM-packs™ was chosen by the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council for the third time to become a STEM program provider for the Iowa STEM Scale-Up Program. In recognition of how effective and engaging Storytime STEM-packs are for STEM and computer science learning, the program was chosen from many applicants to be one of only thirteen STEM providers awarded this distinction in Iowa for 2023-24. 

The Iowa STEM Council made a total of 165 Storytime STEM-pack awards, providing a customized collection of Storytime STEM-packs™ specifically targeting PK-2 mathematics, science, engineering design, and computer science concepts. Each award packet contained one Storytime STEM+C Adventure - either Earth Day, Dragonland, Moon or Happy Planet Adventures - as well as one mathematics and one science/engineering design Storytime STEM-pack. During July of 2023, Storytime STEM-packs conducted virtual synchronous professional learning for 165 Iowa educators, who were the recipients of these awards.

The 3-hour professional development was customized to provide support on the specific Adventure and STEM-packs the educators had selected. Customization for the different mathematics and science/engineering design Storytime STEM-packs was integrated through twenty-minute interactive asynchronous videos. Throughout the Zoom sessions participants had the opportunity to work in small groups in breakout rooms. They also used interactive virtual tools, such as the Terrapin Bee-Bot emulator, customized Google jamboards, Google slide decks, as well as Desmos. Classroom photos and video examples from children working with Storytime STEM Adventures and STEM-packs provided an opportunity for participants to not only engage in the activities as adult learners, but also see them being implemented in the classroom, preschool, or out-of-school settings.

Educators were given the opportunity to complete a short survey at the end of their professional learning session, providing a response to two questions. (1) What did you take away from today's PD that was most helpful? (2) What do you still need to feel more comfortable in facilitating your Adventure and Storytime STEM-packs?

Out of 165 participants, 103 (62%) responded to the survey. Responses to the question “What did you take away from today's PD that was most helpful?”, fell into several main themes. Over 30 of the participants commented on how helpful it was to see Storytime STEM-packs in use, with examples and in-depth explanations of how to facilitate them and ways in which they can be integrated into their existing curriculum. Many respondents commented on how helpful it was to be able to practice with the Bee-Bot robots, and some specifically mentioned the on-line Bee-Bot emulator. Ten respondents appreciated the interactive PD, and six participants commented that as a result of the PD they were excited to start using the Storytime STEM-packs with their children. Other educators appreciated the computer science content and the literacy and mathematics connections.  That sentiment was exemplified in the following quote: “I absolutely love how everything connects to popular children's books. I also love how so much of it is hands on. It is so important to have things engaging and hands on to keep students focused and interested in what is going on.”  Several respondents commented that the professional development gave them new ideas, and that the materials are engaging for kids.

Responses to the question “What do you still need to feel more comfortable in facilitating your Adventure and Storytime STEM-packs?” fell into two main themes. Over 30 surveyed educators stated that they don’t need anything. Another 30 stated that all they still needed were the materials and a chance to explore and/or practice with them. Many respondents specifically commented that they feel comfortable and confident facilitating their Storytime STEM Adventures and Storytime STEM-packs as a result of the virtual professional development. “The training was perfect, and I feel confident in implementing this in my preschool classroom”. Remaining responses indicated that participants would like to refer back to the professional development as they start implementing. Four participants commented that they needed to adapt the materials to their context, and eight shared how excited they were to start using the materials.  

Educators enthusiastically are implementing Storytime STEM-packs during the 2023-2024 school-year.