Seven Muscatine FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League Jr. clubs presented their projects to reviewers from around the community.
Each of the clubs is made up of six kids aged 6 to 10 and led by two volunteers. The groups meet twice a month and are designed to teach students STEM concepts in a fun way.
The local program falls under the umbrella of the ISU Extension and Outreach. County Extension Director Krista Regennitter explains, “These kids are actually part of the Clover Kids. Using that program gives us the ability to properly handle issues like finances and insurance.”
Though the program focuses on STEM concepts, Regennitter explains that coaches do not need to be working in that field. “The packets that the kids begin with at the beginning have very clear directions. The FIRST LEGO League Jr. program provides everything that is needed, so really anyone can volunteer.”
The 2016-2017 program was able to expand from two groups the previous year to seven due to funding provided by Monsanto, the Muscatine Adult Soapbox Derby, and the Grant Elementary PTO.
Each year, the FIRST LEGO League Jr. has a theme for students to learn about. The 2016-2017 theme is Creature Craze.
The clubs “learned about the honeybee habitat, and then they picked an animal that lives in the same habitat as the honeybee and they explored that animal,” Regennitter explains. She called the afternoon of presentations the “capstone” of their year of learning and research.
The program aims to teach students teamwork and the ability to demonstrate their learning by presenting to others.
The afternoon is a non-competitive portion of the League aimed at helping develop communication skills in the students.
Regennitter states that in previous years, the program has had more kids sign up than volunteers available. Adults interested in volunteering do not need to be STEM-trained, only willing to learn along with the students. She explains that the most important part is to encourage the kids to learn and problem-solve and to let the children come to the conclusion.
The League provides each group with meeting plans and directions for each kit. Interested volunteers should contact the Extension Office for more information at (563) 263-5701.