Aug 30

Fostering Resilience and Innovation: Elk Creek Elementary’s Inspiring STEM Mini-Grant Journey

Gabby Carpenter knows the importance of being adaptable, especially in science.  Learning to work through failure is an important part of the STEM programming Carpenter facilitates at Elk Creek Elementary School in New Castle, Colorado. 

“I tell the kids, ‘Hey, it’s ok to fail’”, she explained. “It might not always work, but at least you tried, and you didn’t give up and that’s the most important part.”

A Colorado Afterschool Partnership (CAP) 2022-2023 STEM mini-grant recipient, Elk Creek Elementary School received funding and Million Girls Moonshot resources to use in its four, fifth day STEM clubs that included Carpenter’s Challenge Yourself with STEM program, Mission in Space, CSU’s STEM DIGS Agriculture and a Girls STEM Leadership Club.  

The STEM program’s success in West’s rural community does not come as a surprise to her.  She knows the power of afterschool and the importance of having fun while learning.  Her creative programming for elementary students and her approach to building STEM identity in youth has become a favorite among students, filling up her program less than three hours after registration opens.  

“I’ve built this STEM culture for the past four years and I’ve had full classes ever since I started,” she said.  “NowI have this group of excited kids asking, ‘What’s your next STEM program Ms. Gabby.’ ‘What’s going on?’  ‘What are we doing today?’ and it’s that excitement that keeps me working to keep it going year after year.”

One reason for the program’s success, Carpenter explains, is relationship building, which is why she and the Challenge Yourself with STEM club hosted a family engagement night where the students invited their parents to come into the school’s library and explore their recent work. 

“Parents came in to see the inventions with the kids standing by them, explaining them, demonstrating them, and talking about the thought process of their work,” she said. “Everybody was engaged, and everybody had fun!  I love that parents were able to come through and experience that and see what their kids are thinking and doing with their time outside of school.”

It’s hard to pick a favorite moment over the past year, but Carpenter recognizes that the group in her Girls STEM Leadership Club is something special.  

“That one is completely different from the other clubs,” she said.“It’s all girls and they are doing things to help their community or school.  The energy and attitudes of those 14 girls is amazing.”

And what the Elk Creek Elementary STEM clubs have planned next has students equally as excited.  

“They want to do robots!” she exclaimed.That is something they have always asked for.”

Carpenter and her STEM Clubs utilized Million Girls Moonshot resources including: Mizzen by Mott, STEM Next’s STEM Family Engagement Planning Tool and Partnership in Education & Resilience (PEAR, Inc) Common Instrument Suite Student Survey.