You’d think after doing this job for 40 years that I’d have done everything, but not in Extension! There’s always a new opportunity waiting around the next corner.

Even though the after school program is not a new concept, it’s a new programming audience for me. I’d resisted getting involved with after school programs, because it seems like I have plenty of after-hours, work-related activities to attend. I really wasn’t looking for another reason to get home late and I certainly didn’t want to try and manage an after school program. However, when Alana Pearson contacted me about scheduling a few sessions at Oakland-Craig’s brand new after school program I just couldn’t say “no.”

I decided to offer a few of the “Fairy Tale STEM” activities I’d read about. The STEM program focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The first session I did last week was focused on “The Three Little Pigs.” We reviewed the traditional story and for the STEM portion of the activity added a twist to it.

It seems the third little pig’s strong and sturdy brick house was getting quite cramped. The third little pig got sick of his lazy brothers leaving their slop all around, so he kicked them out. You would think they learned their lesson, but they bumped into the magic bean guy who happened to be selling magic toothpicks. The two pigs, never ones to turn down a great deal, spent their rent money on the toothpicks, and well, now they need a place to live.

The students challenge was to help out the little pigs by building them a house of toothpicks. Since I was working with twenty four 2nd-6th graders, I challenged the older students to use the toothpicks and allowed the younger students to use Popsicle sticks. Their goal as a team of two, was to build a house 6 cm high that could hold the weight of 20 grams (which is 4 nickels) and could withstand the wind from the Big Bad Wolf (a hair dryer) from a meter away.

The toothpicks proved to be a little more challenging than we thought, so everyone worked with the Popsicle sticks. But of course there was no glue used – just the sticks.

To be honest, testing the house for strength wasn’t much fun as I tried to put 4 nickels on it to see if it stood up to the mass test. But the Big Bad Wolf (hair drier) was a really popular test. It was so funny to see the students nervously watch, hoping the wind wouldn’t destroy their house, but after it withstood the test, then they wanted to see it blown apart!

The process of brainstorming with their partner on how to make their house, building it together, testing and then re-evaluating as well as sometimes starting over was all part of the STEM experience. The time flew by as quickly as the wind of the Big Bad Wolf, and by 5 p.m. the kids were heading out the door with my promise to see them again next week. Then we’ll work on the STEM Fairy Tale of the “Three Billy Goats Gruff!”

There’s a first time for everything and my first after school experience was a positive one. I’m looking forward to future opportunities with this audience.

State Fair Exhibits

Don’t forget…the State Fair exhibits are in our office and ready for pick up. Please come get them as soon as possible. Many thanks to Roy & Sarah Miller for helping deliver and return many of our Burt County State Fair exhibits.

Sign up for our Daily Headlines newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.